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?