29 Sep, 2010 Last updated: 14 Nov, 2014

The Australian Parliament is set to take an important step in the fight against the rising tide of disease caused by smoking, alcohol and obesity when the National Prevention Agency Bill is debated during this fortnight’s Parliamentary sitting period.

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The Australian Parliament is set to take an important step in the fight against the rising tide of disease caused by smoking, alcohol and obesity when the National Prevention Agency Bill is debated during this fortnight’s Parliamentary sitting period.

The proposed national prevention agency was recommended by the National Preventative Health Taskforce and the National Health and Hospital Reform Commission to provide co-ordination and leadership in promoting the health of Australians.

Key health experts and public health policy organisations (see details over page) have urged the Parliament to support the bill to create the Agency.
According to Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) CEO Todd Harper, the time to act is now.
“It’s pleasing that national health reform is seeking to embed health promotion and prevention as a priority for the future health of Australia,” Mr Harper said. 
“In the absence of such forward thinking and action, the number of Australians with chronic disease, mental health problems, and serious disabilities will increase dramatically over the next few decades, as a result of population ageing and a lack of concerted and effective long term prevention initiatives in healthcare, business and community.

“The National Preventive Agency will have a major marketing focus. There is good evidence that social marketing is very effective and good value for money, particularly on education about tobacco, physical activity and fruit and vegetables.
“We know that there are significant health, economic and financial benefits to be gained by achieving a reduction in smoking, obesity and harms from alcohol through a renewed focus on prevention,” Mr Harper said.

In total, the overall cost to the healthcare system associated with obesity, tobacco and the harmful use of alcohol is in the order of almost $6 billion per year.
COAG, the National Health and Hospital Reform Commission and the National Preventive Health Taskforce have all highlighted the need to invest in prevention.
Their recommendations have highlighted the need for the agency to be capable of working effectively across many sectors, coordinating activities at national, state and local levels, informing government policy through the provision of strategic advice, and providing progress reports to the Australian community.