Australia not on track for chronic disease targets due to lack of ‘tough policies’

Doug Hendrie

26/09/2018 2:14:20 PM

Australia is set to miss its 2030 goal to slash deaths from cancer and other chronic diseases, according to new analysis.

A tax on sugary drinks is one the tough policies suggested by Cancer Council Australia Public Policy Director Paul Grogan.
A tax on sugary drinks is one the tough policies suggested by Cancer Council Australia Public Policy Director Paul Grogan.

The Federal Government must introduce ‘tough policies’ to tackle chronic diseases, the Cancer Council Australia said.
Cancer Council Australia Public Policy Director Paul Grogan said governments need to make strong decisions and tackle entrenched interests to have a shot at reducing death rates from chronic disease.
‘The targets are good, but action is lacking. Governments have to follow through with tough policies and evidence-based prioritisation of funding,’ he said.
Mr Grogan’s call comes after news that Australia, alongside more than half the world’s countries, is predicted to miss World Health Organization (WHO) 2030 targets on reducing premature deaths from chronic diseases like cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
On present trends, Australia will hit the goal of a one-third reduction in these deaths after 2040 for women, while the male target is expected to be reached between 2031 and 2040, according to analysis published in The Lancet
As of 2016, Australian women aged between 30 and 70 have a 7.2% chance of dying from a chronic disease, while men have an 11% chance.
Overall, chronic disease mortality is decreasing in most countries. But the pace of that decline varies substantially.
One in 10 countries have seen death rates from these diseases hold steady or worsen. As of 2016, 12.5 million deaths of people between 30 and 70 were due to chronic disease.
Mr Grogan told newsGP the news is not a surprise. He said making progress on many chronic diseases would require governmental action, citing the impact of poor diet.
‘Nutrient-poor food that’s widely promoted like never before – that’s a matter governments can act on,’ he said.
‘Sugary drinks are one of the starkest examples of a widely known product of no nutritional basis marketed to people at risk of other chronic diseases. It’s highly discretionary food, only consumed to the extent it is because of highly aggressive marketing.
‘These are difficult [situations], because [governments] have to take on large interests like the food and alcohol industry. They’re the ones that have the highest commercial vested interest in products that can have an adverse effect on population health.’
Australia has not introduced taxes on sugar, salt or saturated fats. On sugar, the Government is instead investigating better labelling of sugars on packaged food and drink.
Sugar taxes are emerging overseas as a popular way to reduce consumption and increase healthy lifespans. More than 20 countries have introduced a sugar tax, with Mexico’s annual soft drink consumption falling by 8% since its introduced a tax in 2014.
Modelling by University of Melbourne researchers last year found a sugar tax would give an average of 1.2 years of healthy life per 100 Australians, and save the country $3.4 billion in annual healthcare costs.
Mr Grogan said Australia is a world leader in tobacco control as a result of government action. Rapid reductions in cervical cancer are another highlight, with widespread Pap smear testing undertaken for decades before being superseded by HPV screening.
‘You can perform very well in one area and very poorly in another,’ he said. ‘We are performing very badly in high body mass and nutrition.
‘Chronic conditions are harder to deal with partly just because of their prevalence.
‘We have done better in recent decades in controlling infectious diseases. In previous generations, huge swathes were knocked out by infections that are comparatively well controlled now.
‘It’s a double-edged sword that, as life expectancy improves, so does the burden of chronic disease.’

chronic disease non-communicable disease sugar tax

Login to comment