An Australia-first study has found 500,000 people could avoid chronic illness, $2.3 billion in annual hospital costs could be saved, and the annual number of taxpayer-funded Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme prescriptions could be cut by 5.3 million.
The study, The Cost of Inaction on the Social Determinants of Health, reveals avoidable chronic illness costs the Federal Government $4 billion each year in welfare payments and the national economy $8 billion in lost earnings.
Click here to read the study's findings.
Catholic Health Australia (CHA) commissioned the University of Canberra's National Centre for Social and Economic Modeling (NATSEM) to calculate savings the Federal Government could achieve if the 2008 World Health Organisation (WHO) action plan on social determinants of health was implemented.
Catholic Health Australia CEO Martin Laverty said "The lowest 20 per cent of income earners suffer twice the amount of chronic illness than the highest 20 per cent. NATSEM's study quantifies the cost of avoidable poor health to the Australian economy.
"The WHO in 2008 detailed how countries like Australia should tackle health inequalities. Now we have evidence it makes economic sense to implement the WHO proposals. In releasing the NATSEM report, we seek a Senate Inquiry to detail how Australia can best implement the WHO's action plan."
The NATSEM report found implementing the WHO recommendations could see:
• 500,000 Australians avoid suffering a chronic illness;
• 170,000 extra Australians enter the workforce, generating $8 billion in extra earnings;
• $4 billion in welfare support payments saved each year;
• 60,000 fewer people admitted to hospital annually, resulting in savings of $2.3 billion in hospital expenditure;
• 5.5 million fewer Medicare services utilised each year, resulting in annual savings of $273 million;
• 5.3 million fewer Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme scripts being filled each year, resulting in annual savings of $184.5 million.
"The social determinants of health – such as income level, housing status and educational attainment – are factors responsible for health inequities that result in 500,000 Australians having a chronic illness that could be avoided.
"Helping people to finish school, to gain secure employment and to better participate in society could see 500,000 Australians remain healthy and save taxpayers billions of dollars," Mr Laverty said.
Click here to access the report The Cost of Inaction on the Social Determinants of Health
Click here to order Catholic Health Australia's book Determining the Future: A Fair Go & Health for All
Click here to access the CHA-Natsem Report, Health Lies in Wealth, published in 2010
Click here to access Catholic Health Australia's 2009 policy paper on the social determinants of health
Click here to read the World Health Organization's report Closing the Gap in a Generation
Click here to read the World Health Assembly's May 2012 resolution endorsing the 2011 Rio Political Declaration on the Social Determinants of Health
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