18 Nov, 2010 Last updated: 14 Nov, 2014

The announcement of a National Preventive Health Agency for Australia has been welcomed by VicHealth – Australia’s first health promotion organisation – as an important historic event.

The announcement of a National Preventive Health Agency for Australia has been welcomed by VicHealth – Australia’s first health promotion organisation – as an important historic event.

Starting early next year, the new agency will provide co-ordination and leadership in preventing illness and death due to unhealthy lifestyles and other preventable factors.

VicHealth CEO Todd Harper said the agency will strengthen the front line in the battle against chronic illness caused by smoking, alcohol and obesity in Australia.

“The National Preventive Agency will have a major public education focus, which we know from the tobacco example is a highly effective way to encourage healthier lifestyles,” he said.

“Not only will this new agency make a significant difference to the health of all Australians, it will also have economic and financial benefits and reduce the burden on our hospital system. We look forward to working closely together.

“VicHealth’s economic research shows that if alcohol consumption was reduced by one-third, there would be 98,000 fewer new cases of disease a year. Similarly, if tobacco smoking in Australia was reduced by just 2 per cent, this would save 5000 lives a year.”

The current overall cost to the healthcare system associated with obesity, tobacco and the harmful use of alcohol is almost $6 billion per year and rising, he said.

Mr Harper added that the new agency would not have been possible without the endorsement from COAG, the National Health and Hospital Reform Commission and the National Preventive Health Taskforce.

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.