South Australia’s leading public health organisations have released a plan of five evidence-based priorities that if enacted by the next state government will lay the foundations for a healthier and happier population.
The Consortium comprises the SA Branches of the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA), the Australian Health Promotion Association (AHPA), and the South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS). We all share a vision for a healthy, flourishing state, where every person has the opportunity to live well and prosper.
Our priorities are:
1. Increase investment in public health, disease prevention and health promotion
2. Build the capacity of the public health workforce into the future and beyond COVID-19
3. Reduce the harms from alcohol through the introduction of a floor price for the cheapest alcohol
4. Establish an independent state-wide monitoring system for health inequities
5. Create healthier environments for children.
The Consortium’s plan builds on South Australia’s successful COVID-19 response which demonstrated collaborative decision-making, to ensure the best possible balance between economic security, mental wellbeing, and safety from community transmission of the virus.
“The way SA Health and the wider community united and confronted the pandemic was commendable and definitely saved lives,” says PHAA SA Branch President, Dr Jacquie Bowden.
“Now is the time to build on those successes by enacting a plan to deal with numerous public health challenges that have not diminished while we’ve been battling COVID-19.”
The first priority involves an ongoing investment of a minimum of at least five per cent of the SA health budget on public health prevention.
“Taking this step would mean that SA follows best practice and brings us into line with countries such as Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom,” says Dr Bowden.
“This investment will achieve the strategic vision of Wellbeing SA, so that South Australia is equipped to tackle health inequities across the state, and ensure a fairer health system for all, beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The second priority concerns the state’s public health workforce. Successive governments have made numerous cuts to the local preventive health workforces since the 2012 McCann Review of Non-Hospital Based Services.
This is unsustainable and limits the government’s capacity to deliver essential health promotion and disease prevention initiatives, coupled with the challenges of public health professionals who will be retiring in the coming five to 10 years.
“The next SA Government must urgently undertake a comprehensive review of the state’s preventive health workforce in order to develop an effective and sustainable workforce development strategy,” Dr Stefania Velardo, President of the AHPA SA Branch, says.
“We call for a dedicated employment training and development program for health promotion and disease prevention practitioners, as is seen in other states, to stimulate jobs and provide career pathways for practitioners with unique skills and expertise.”
Another priority involves creating an independent, state-wide monitoring system for health inequities. An online system available for all sectors of government and the public would show where the problems are and provide an evidence-base to formulate interventions and track progress over time.
Ross Womersley, SACOSS CEO said “While South Australia already collects a range of data and information, we know that health and social inequities occur across the health system. However, we do not necessarily have sufficiently independent and detailed analysis to aid us in responding effectively to these inequities.
“If we expand and deepen the scope of the state-wide monitoring work, we will be in a better position to pinpoint the associated determinants that impact on people’s health and wellbeing. This will enable us to argue for better resourcing in determinant areas such as the appropriateness of housing, levels and quality of employment and education, and digital inclusion amongst others.”
“There is no doubt that by analysing socio-demographic trends and geographic inequities, we can gain information about where preventative health interventions most need to be directed and will be of most benefit.” says SACOSS CEO Ross Womersley.
Another priority of the Consortium’s concerns setting a floor price for the cheapest forms of alcohol which is known to be an efficient and cost-effective strategy to reduce many harms from alcohol including hospital admissions, injury, assaults and child protection notifications. The fifth priority is to create healthier environments for children by reducing their exposure to the marketing of unhealthy products on government property and revising the food and drink policy for South Australian schools and preschools to ensure more nutritious options.
Taken together, these five priorities will lead to a healthier, happier state. The benefits will be considerable and will build on the successful health actions that have helped South Australia to confront and defeat COVID-19. We call on our MPs to support these priorities for the next election.