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Australians generally enjoy good health, and as a nation we are among the healthiest in the world-but there is still room for improvement, according to the latest national report card on health, released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The report, Australia's health 2010, launched today by Health Minister Nicola Roxon at the 'Australia's health 2010' conference in Canberra, brings together the latest available national statistics on health.
AIHW Director Dr Penny Allbon said Australians place great value on their health and the health status of Australians was improving on many fronts, with rapid growth in health spending and health services.
'Health in Australia is a $100-billion-a-year industry, with governments footing 70% of that bill', Dr Allbon said. 'The Commonwealth's contribution alone is around $45 billion.'
It's an industry growing at a faster rate than inflation, and faster than the population.
For example, hospital admissions in Australia rose by 37% in the 10 years to 2007-08, and health expenditure per person rose by around 45% in real terms. Employment in health occupations grew by 23% between 2003 and 2008, almost double that across all occupations.
'New and better technologies, high community expectations, the ageing of our population, and increases in chronic disease as the population ages are all driving that growth', Dr Allbon said.
The report shows that Australia's life expectancy at birth remains among the highest in the world-almost 84 years for women and 79 years for men-and survival rates for people diagnosed with life-threatening diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD) are improving.
Australia's level of smoking has continued to fall, and is among the lowest in OECD countries at 1 in 6 adults smoking daily. Death rates from diseases associated with smoking have also decreased.
While CVD remains Australia's biggest killer, the death rate from CVD has fallen by over 75% since a peak in the late 1960s, and less than a quarter of deaths from CVD are now among people aged under 75 years.
Cancer death rates have also fallen. Between 1987 and 2007 the overall cancer death rate fell by 16% and survival rates for a number of leading cancers, including cervical, breast and lung cancer, have improved.
'However, despite some great progress in death rates, diseases that impact on the quality of life remain a concern,' Dr Allbon said.
'Many Australians experience mental illness-around 1 in 5 Australians aged 16-85 years has a mental disorder at some time in a 12-month period, including 1 in 4 of those aged 16-24 years.
'Rates of overweight and obesity, which are known risk factors for many diseases, continue to rise.
In 2007-08, 3 in 5 adults (61%) and 1 in 4 children (25%) were either overweight or obese, putting Australia's obesity level squarely among the 'worst' third of OECD countries.'
The prevalence of diabetes also continues to increase markedly, having trebled over the last two decades, and over 800,000 Australians are now diagnosed with the disease. Type 2 diabetes is projected to become the leading cause of disease burden by 2023.
As the population ages, and more Australians reach advanced old age, the number of people with dementia is projected to more than double over the next 20 years.
'The report highlights that some population groups continue to fair worse than others, including Indigenous people, people of lower socioeconomic status and people living in rural and remote areas', Dr Allbon said.
Indigenous Australians have much higher death rates and higher rates of serious and fatal injuries than other Australians. They are twice as likely to have high or very high levels of psychological distress, and Indigenous adults are about three times as likely to have diabetes.
Australia's health 2010 selected highlights
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