Progress, but gaps remain in Vic health

·2-min read

Reducing tobacco use and implementing injecting rooms are among the initiatives that have contributed to Victoria's public health success, while more work needs to be done on climate change, experts say.

A new report from the Victorian branch of the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) shows improvements are needed when it comes to the environment and creating a healthy, secure and sustainable food system.

The report recommends the state government implement policies that reduce emissions and support renewable energy infrastructure.

It also recommends the government acts to ensure effective food relief efforts, including emergency relief co-ordination and frameworks to map and plan food demand.

In Victoria, natural disasters such as the heatwaves of 2009 and 2014 contributed to 374 and 167 excess deaths respectively.

The 2016 thunderstorm asthma event, where thousands of Victorians developed breathing difficulties, contributed to the deaths of nine people and a 3000 per cent increase in asthma-related intensive care unit admissions.

Improvements are also needed when it comes to mental health reforms, social housing and better health support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians.

"Doing so means we must shift the health system and health budget towards prevention, and increase investment in preventive health to five per cent of total health expenditure by 2030 from the current two per cent," PHAA Victorian branch president Anna Nicholson said.

There are 10 initiatives outlined that have improved quality of life for millions of Victorians, ranging from child and maternal health to workplace safety.

Additionally, 10 initiatives requiring further action were identified, involving diversity and inclusion, ending family violence and better preparation for infectious diseases.

"These successes have prevented millions of Victorians from dying prematurely from accidents and infectious and chronic diseases," Dr Nicholson said.

"However, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us where the gaps are and highlighted the need for greater investment in preventive public health so we can create a nimbler, stronger, and more sustainable health system that can withstand future challenges."

Victoria's anti-smoking campaigns, including the blanket ban on tobacco advertising and plain packaging, are highlighted as some of the most successful health initiatives in recent years.

In 2019, the adult daily smoking rate in Victoria was 10.6 per cent, a significant drop from 32 per cent in 1985.

Separately, the trial of medically supervised injecting rooms in 2018 following a series of heroin-related deaths is also touted as a success.

In the first 18 months of the trial, it was estimated to have had more than 119,000 visits, supervised more than 116,000 injections, successfully managed 3200 overdoses and saved more than 21 people from dying.

Other successful initiatives include preventing skin cancer, providing quality maternal child health services and progressing towards the elimination of cervical cancer.

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