The health of Australians is among the best in the world. Nationwide efforts, such as the recognition of and focus on national health priority areas, will help to ensure that this continues.
The National Health Priority Area (NHPA) initiative is a collaborative approach to dealing with a range of conditions which account for 70% of the burden of disease and cost in Australia. It is overseen by the National Health Priority Action Council, which was established as a sub-committee of AHMAC in June 2000, and comprises representatives from the Commonwealth, each of the states and territories, a representative of Indigenous peoples and a representative of consumer issues.
The establishment of diseases and conditions as national health priority areas involves a national consultation process and consideration of such things as:
- the health burden associated with the disease/condition (including incidence, prevalence, mortality, morbidity, quality of life, economic costs)
- the potential for health gain (including improved health outcomes, and potential to change behaviour)
- the potential for progress through national collaboration
- the potential for cost-effective health gain using interventions known to be effective (including existing and potential intersectoral action)
- the potential for sustainability of programs to address the health area
At present six priority areas have been endorsed by Australian health ministers covering cardiovascular health, cancer control, injury prevention and control, mental health, diabetes mellitus, and asthma. A range of program initiatives has been established, aimed at improving health outcomes in these areas. In July 2002 Australian health ministers, added arthritis and musculoskeletal disease as a seventh national health priority area. The initial focus for the NHPA initiative in this area is on osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.
- the potential to reduce health inequalities.