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A submission to the Australian Department of Health’s consultation paper on the National Preventative Health Strategy made by RegNet scholars in the Menzies Centre for Health Governance this week, calls for the Strategy to serve as an overarching document that boldly asserts action on the ‘causes of the causes’ of health and health equity as a core tenet for prevention.
Drawing on the extensive research on health governance and commercial determinants of health by Menzies and RegNet scholars, the authors of the submission argue that the vision of the Strategy namely “to improve the health of all Australians at all stages of life, through early intervention, better information, targeting risk factors, and addressing the broader causes of health and wellbeing”, is an excellent one, but its aims could focus more on the societal level drivers and less so on individual circumstances.
“The goals, actions and focus areas of the Strategy should identify efforts to address the social and commercial drivers of health and health inequities, while continuing to support existing policy and activity on prevention in Australia that is effective, efficient and equitable” said Dr Belinda Townsend, Deputy Director of the Menzies Centre for Heath Governance at RegNet.
For example, actions to increase the consumption of healthy diets (focus area 2 of the Strategy) can be undermined by food environments that are full of highly processed, heavily marketed food and corporate practices that increase the supply and availability of unhealthy food, as highlighted by the work of RegNet and Menzies scholar Dr Yandisa Ngqangashe.
The submission also highlights the importance of a systems approach where systems thinking and methods are employed to address the complex nature of prevention, an area in focus for Menzies and RegNet scholar Dr Melanie Pescud.
COVID19 has shone a spotlight on social and health inequities in Australia and abroad, but has also presented opportunities for governance reform that prioritise people’s health
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