A national poll by the Australian medical research body, Research Australia, has found that many Australians are worried about developing a range of chronic diseases during their lifetime, particularly diseases such as arthritis.
According to Research Australia more than 40% are worried about developing arthritis, more than a third worry about the risk of depression and a quarter of the population worries about heart disease, hearing loss, type 2 diabetes, asthma and stroke - and this concern is more so amongst Australians living in rural and regional areas.
People now seem to be more interested in their health and want to know their risks and what they can do to minimise them and many have embarked on regular exercise programs and have undergone routine screening for a disease or illness and are apparently prepared to participate in medical research to improve their health.
Lifestyle habits too have changed with many significantly reducing their weekly intake of alcohol and cigarettes.
Health continues to be the issue of greatest importance to Australians and government plans to offer incentives to employers to encourage healthier lifestyles among staff will come as welcome news.
The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has earmarked $450 million for a new Health Prevention National Partnership, which aims to encourage people to stay fit and develop a healthy lifestyle by targeting smoking, drinking and obesity - this will ultimately take pressure off hospitals by preventing many major diseases such as diabetes.
The money is part of a promised $64.4 billion to the states, to be paid over the next five years to fund health services and it provides an extra $4.8 billion for public hospitals, an added $1.1 billion to train more doctors, nurses and other health professionals and a one-off $750 million payment to ease some of the pressure experienced in hospital emergency departments. The package also contains $500 million to provide sub-acute care to help older people leaving hospital which will free up beds as well as $800 million for an Indigenous Health National Partnership.
According to the Prime Minister Rudd the agreement represents an increase of $4.8 billion and the training funds will create new places for 212 general practitioners, 73 specialists, 18,000 nurse supervisors and 7,000 medical supervisors nationally.
The funding which has been linked to new accountability measures, performance reporting and reward payments for meeting set targets has been welcomed by state premiers and the Australian Medical Association.
The AMA says it reflects the importance of health but expressed concern over some preventive health measures and the Queensland branch of the AMA says there is concern that national performance scorecards may prompt hospitals to cherry-pick their patients and older people could lose out.
The Public Health Association says the funds for prevention are a "landmark change".
The Commonwealth and the states and territories agreed to the introduction of the scheme at the weekend.