Needle exchange, prevention and return on investment

It’s been a substantive week for the ATOD sector from a government policy viewpoint, with the release of the Return on investment 2: evaluating the cost-effectiveness of needle and syringe programs in Australia 2009 report by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aging and the steady progress towards realisation of a nationwide Preventative Health Agency.

For those working at the NSEP coalface the Commonwealth report doesn’t contain any great surprises: the program has saved hundreds of millions of dollars overs its lifetime (Alex Wodak has a спалниnice piece over at Crikey on the report). The challenge now falls to both the Commonwealth and State governments to follow-through and further entrench the validity of NSEP. Hell, they could even expand its reach. There’s a chance for some governmental innovation.

The Health Minister Nicola Roxon is enthused by the passage of the legislation supporting the formation of a preventative health agency. Not surprisingly, the pressure is already being applied to Senators in regards to its passage through that chamber. The press release in full:

Australia’s first ever Preventive Health Agency will soon be established following the passage of important legislation in the House of Representatives today. The Agency is a key part of the Rudd Government’s decision to invest more in preventative health measures than any other government in Australia’s history.

The legislation is now with the Senate for consideration. It is essential that this Bill be passed without delay so that the agency can commence work on 1 January 2010.

The creation of this agency responds to calls from health professionals for Australia to establish – as many other countries have done – a dedicated agency to focus exclusively on driving the prevention agenda and combat the complex challenges of preventable chronic disease.

The agency will guide health ministers in their task of curbing the growth of lifestyle risks driving chronic disease. It is a role requiring national leadership, capacity to work across sectors and portfolios, and an oversight role for surveillance and monitoring.

The agency will bring together the best expertise in the country and play a key role in gathering, analysing and disseminating the best available evidence and evidence-based programs.

Its prevention activities will engage all Australian governments as well as employers, businesses and other sectors, to benefit every community in the nation.

The new preventive health agency will concentrate on reducing the burden that preventable health problems are already placing on the workforce, and ensure Australia’s productive capacity is maintained.

The agency will receive $133 million over four years, from the Government’s record $872 million COAG Prevention Partnership funding.

Strong support for the agency has been expressed by key players in the preventive health field such as the Public Health Association of Australia, and this is important in ensuring the agency’s success in forging cohesiveness in national preventive health efforts.

The preventative health agency legislation holds some promise and it’ll be interesting to see how much ideology enters the debate. You can expect the AMA to go in hard on the issue of medical funding not beign sacrificed on the altar of prevention. There may also be some argy bargy over the taskforce being another incremental step toward Commonwealth takeover of health. Beyond that, it’s really hard to see any Senator taking a strong stand unless it’s to claim the model is wrong or that there’s not enough funding for it to work effectively.

Over to you: are you encouraged by the NSEP report and the taskforce legislation? Do you see it as a positive step toward better health services delivery?

2 thoughts on “Needle exchange, prevention and return on investment

  1. ludvik

    Dear editor.

    Due to recent events in Afghanistan, I started wondering as to what is the reason of us, as Australians to be there?
    Spreading of democracy?
    Why don’t start here, at home, or somewhere where we don’t have to send our soldiers to kill people for whatever political justification?
    What’s in Afghanistan worth killing people for?
    HEROIN !
    I punched into Internet searcher, UNITED NATIONS , then AFGHANISTAN, HEROIN PRODUCTION, and there it is!
    Before the US led invasion the Taliban declared that heroin production is against the “ will of god” and started to destroy poppy fields to the extent that according to UN figures they (the Taliban)
    eliminated some 90% of them in areas under their control.
    They had no control over the northern part , where the well equipped drug lords were far superior to Taliban .
    Imagine my surprise as how come the US appointed the “northern alliance” as the new “democratic” Gov. of Afghanistan
    I was even more surprised to find out the since the occupation, the heroin production has more than doubled, to the point that now it stands at some 7 thousand (yes seven thousand) tons per year,which represent some 90% of the total world production.
    Ninety percent of the heroin on our streets comes from Afghanistan.
    To grow enough poppies to produce that amount, you need some 500 000 hectares of land.
    You could see those bright purple flowers from the moon if you look the right direction, so how come that all the US spy satellites and drone planes cant find them?
    Furthermore I discover that during the whole of the “war” not a single missile hit the heroin labs, where the heroin is being refined.
    These labs need vast amounts of “catalyst” which is being shipped in by tanker after tanker from abroad.
    There’s no dual purpose for this chemical, so how come the US military is allowing the importation of it?
    Not even a mouse gets in or out of Afghanistan without someone from US military let it, so how come some 300 truckloads of heroin a year is getting out.
    Another puzzling question is, who is getting all the money?
    One doesn’t have to be a accountant to work out that all this heroin would be worth billions of dollars.
    All this information being so easily available, how come our leaders are ignorant about it?
    How come that we as a nation don’t have a massive debate about our involvement in this scam.

    The best prevention is to stop the source. 90% of missery on our streets comes from Afghanistan. Rud is eigter ignorant of this problem or is in on it. Form your own opinion.

  2. Pingback: Prevention that works – Syringe Exchanges in the news « Reduce Harm: a Public Health and Social Justice Blog

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