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Australia’s health 2022 highlights lessons learned and gaps to fill

The article was originally posted on LinkedIn by Matthew James, Deputy Chief Executive Officer

I’m very pleased to see one of the AIHW’s biennial flagship reports released today. Australia’s health 2022, captures a significant time in the history of Australia’s health landscape and comes at an important time for all Australians as we continue to focus on our individual health, the health of our communities and the health of our nation.

Congratulations to my colleagues on producing a comprehensive and informative report, launched today in a statement by the Hon. Mark Butler MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care.

So, what do we know?

It is always hard to provide a comprehensive assessment of Australia’s health, but this has been made even more challenging in the last few years. Since the onset of COVID-19 things have moved rapidly. New data is coming out every week and it can be hard to stand back and think about what it all means. 

We know that we are living longer. We’ve seen life expectancy at birth increase from 55 in the early 1900s to 80 or more for people born after 2010. Australia had the sixth highest life expectancy among all OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries in 2020, with life expectancy at birth being 83.0 years.

It is easy to take continued improvements into life expectancy for granted. While life expectancy continues to rise in Australia it fell sharply in the United States in 2020 mostly due to the impact of COVID-19. And this followed some falls in previous years mainly due to so called deaths of despair.

We know that in Australia over the last 100 years, prevention strategies and childhood immunisations have led to substantial declines in deaths from infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, polio and diphtheria. In the first decade of the 20th century, child deaths (aged 0–4 years) accounted for 26% of all deaths compared with 0.7% in 2020. Similarly, there has been a dramatic decline in the rate of babies who didn’t live to their 1st birthday, from 68 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1915 to 3.2 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2020.

We know that the hard work of a century, has forged our health care system into one that can support Australians through a major health crisis.

We know that technology, medical advances and health promotion have continued to improve the lives of Australians, allowing us to live longer.

This year’s Australia’s health 2022: data insights includes analysis on the recent health impacts of COVID-19, the evolution of the health system over the last century, and the importance of a strong evidence base for supporting the health of all Australians.

Now while it is important to reflect, we know there’s always room for improvement and today’s release highlights our nation’s most important health issues. Through the provision of consistent and accessible national health data, publications like this serve as a comparison for future reporting.

With a population that is living longer, we are now experiencing higher rates of chronic and age-related conditions. While most Australians report that they are in good to very good health, in 2020–21, almost half (47%, or 11.6 million) of the population were estimated to have one or more common chronic health conditions (including diabetes, cancer, mental and behavioral conditions, and chronic kidney disease).

Many chronic health conditions share preventable risk factors, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and not getting enough exercise – in fact, over one-third of our nation’s ‘disease burden’ is due to preventable risk factors.

Australia’s health 2022: in brief brings together data from a range of reliable sources to provide a holistic picture of the health of Australians and highlights areas in need of improvements.

The institute, and the work that we do, plays an important role in building a better understanding of the health issues facing Australians and to what extent.

The Australia’s health 2022 product suite comprises:

·      Australia’s health 2022: data insights (a collection of articles on topical issues including COVID-19);

·      Australia’s health: topic summaries (key statistics and contextual information on health and the health system); and

·      Australia’s health 2022: in brief (a short summary of health in Australia, drawn from key findings from the data insights report and the topic summaries).

It is a privilege to work at the institute at such an important time. I hope that through transparency and consistency today’s release will continue to build public trust in data information and highlight the significant role data plays in progressing Australia’s health outcomes and systems. 

I would like to thank and congratulate everyone involved in the analysis, production, and release of today’s report. 

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