Almost half of all Australians live with chronic disease

Health survey statistics reveal that half of all Australians live with a chronic disease.

Australia’s reputation as a healthy nation is unravelling, with a new report revealing that almost half the population lives with a chronic disease.

Health policy expert Ben Harris analysed National Health Survey data and found that 11.4 million Australians have a chronic disease.

The country may have one of the highest life expectancies in the world, but if the trend of preventable chronic diseases – particularly obesity – continues, then life expectancy rates may suffer.

Chronic disease numbers have risen sharply in the last decade – up from two in five just 10 years ago. More shocking is that around a third of these diseases are preventable, “yet we only spend 1.3 per cent of our health budget on preventing disease”, says Mr Harris.

“We need to do better with prevention and managing chronic disease. We need to start treating people, rather than treating diseases.”

Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, asthma, mental health and dementia are all categorised as chronic disease. Most of these conditions can be prevented, or at least treated in the early stages to prevent them from ‘snowballing’ into a more serious health condition.

However, GP Marek Steiner says the system isn’t properly geared towards prevention and is concerned about the future load on the health system.

“The current system doesn’t really allow us to focus on ongoing proper care for patients over time,” Dr Steiner told 7.30.

“With people with chronic conditions, we certainly want to spend a little bit more time.

“We are going to be overwhelmed with patients with chronic need; they won’t get the care they need, simple as that. This system has to change.

“When you are faced with a chronic medical condition, we certainly have a two-tiered system for those who have money and those who don’t have money, and there is a big gap there.”

Australia’s chief medical officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, says that obesity is Australia’s biggest health crisis.

“I think it is fair to call it a crisis,” he said.

“We’re quite high up in the shame scale internationally of obesity – nearly a third of our population are obese and nearly two-thirds are overweight or obese.

“That is a massive challenge for us that requires a very significant multi-faceted approach in terms of nutrition, exercise and, particularly, attention to early childhood in my view.”

Preventing obesity would minimise the occurrences of other chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Health policy analyst at the Australian Health Care Reform Alliance, Ms Jennifer Doggett, says Australia’s healthcare system should be overhauled.

“Our health system was set up in an era when the biggest burden of healthcare was short-term acute problems like infectious diseases and injuries,” she said.

“We’re now in an era where the largest burden is for complex and chronic problems, where people need care from a range of different providers and over a long period of time.

“That’s something our health system is not able to do.”

Melbourne GP Lara Roeske says GPs don’t have enough time with patients to be able to help them properly.

“If you ask most GPs what their one big wish would be, it would be to spend more time with their patients in a way that is appropriately supported and subsidised,” she said.

“Some of the issues with managing these conditions is they often last for months or years; they’re not curable; they often involve a multi-pronged approach to management.

“If we can see patients before they become unwell, that is just a brilliant opportunity to start working through a list of risk factors that we know can set people up for chronic disease later on.”

The Government plans to fund a scheme to help people aged over 70 spend more time with their GPs, but Dr Roeske says this funding should apply to people of all ages.

“The best thing you can do for your health is be wealthy,” said health policy expert Mr Harris.

“We know that people with lower socio-economic means are more likely to have health risk factors and are more likely to die early from chronic disease.

“We know the wealthy communities do a lot better. Not only do they have fewer risk factors, they have less chronic disease and much greater access to healthcare.

“What we have in Australia is a universal health system, but it’s not necessarily a fair health system.”

Do you live with a chronic disease? Was it potentially preventable?

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    COMMENTS

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    Ted Wards
    1st Jul 2019
    10:25am
    I believe the issue lies in the fact that the western model of medicine is designed to keep us sick. The truth is, if we commit to our health and wellbeing, stopped eating processed foods and changed to mostly fruit and vegetable based diet and only a small about of meats, exercised and took responsibility, the western medical system would soon disappear which is exactly why the own the diet industry and promote the most unhealthy diets ladened with salts and sugars. Chronic means that its associated with every choice you make and if you make bad choices you will have the health you created. Imagine that, you have either made choices to support good health or support poor habits. Its all your choice.
    MICK
    1st Jul 2019
    6:15pm
    Yep and add meal portions as well.
    There's a reason western cultures are sick and those in third world countries have few ailments.
    Wstaton
    1st Jul 2019
    7:36pm
    Yes it's also because all the crap that's eaten.
    Farside
    2nd Jul 2019
    6:10pm
    western medical schools to disappear ... rubbish.
    Anonymous
    4th Jul 2019
    11:59am
    I agree, Ted. We don't have a health system. We have a sickness industry. The profits are massive and everything possible is being done to maintain and increase them. We, the people, are lambs for the slaughter.

    I don't think we should abolish western medicine, but certainly we need to focus on lifestyle, and we would do well to adopt many of the Eastern medicine practices. Many alternate and natural remedies work. But we saw a classic example of the greed of the industry when doctors finally acknowledged that turmeric is hugely beneficial in fighting many health problems and relieving pain. What happened? Big pharma created tablets and capsules that combine it with other ingredients and sold them at inflated prices. Those who woke up to the benefits early are still buying turmeric in Asian stores for $7 a kilo, and simply stirring it into juice or water. A kilo lasts a full year and the pure powder works far better than the tablets or capsules.

    I have rejected one prescription after another because the side effects are more worrying than the problem, and nature offers a better solution. But Medicare and pensioner benefits don't extend to alternate therapies or natural remedies, so the sickness industry prevails.
    Rosret
    1st Jul 2019
    11:22am
    So this article is about obesity not health care. Obesity is not a chronic illness. It is a condition caused from the food producers who produce food in the supermarkets and takeaway food outlets supplying the wrong food /additives. It has nothing to do with the health system or the general populous. We did not all suddenly become greedy.
    Unfortunately, the truth is these substandard food sources have stopped a huge element of our population from starving. So if you still have enough money in the piggy bank buy quality raw produce before its unattainable.
    jackie
    1st Jul 2019
    11:46am
    Roster, it’s called laziness and gluttony. I can’t get over all the nail salons full of young men and women too lazy to bend over and cut their toenails.
    Big Kev
    1st Jul 2019
    5:36pm
    Actually obesity has been linked to a genetic predisposition, found most commonly in certain Pacific Islanders followed by Europeans. It is not laziness or gluttony as some suggest but either a predisposition to high calorific intake or a failure of the body to produce the enzyme that tells us we are full. There is a group of people with mental health issues who comfort eat as well as those with pain issues who cannot exercise.
    Rosret
    1st Jul 2019
    6:30pm
    Jackie that is affluence. A luxury that is popular these days.
    Anonymous
    4th Jul 2019
    12:03pm
    Big Kev, if obesity were genetic, it wouldn't be increasing at the current rate. Watch the obese carefully and see what they eat. They over-eat and they eat fattening rubbish. It IS laziness and gluttony in most cases. Only a very small number of people lack the enzyme that tells us when we are full, and those people are able to receive special help to learn to control meal portions and regulate their eating and exercise habits.

    Mental health is certainly a factor, and drives under-eating as well as over-eating. Those with pain issues SHOULD exercise, because exercise is the best remedy for most types of pain.
    tisme
    1st Jul 2019
    11:33am
    mum age 68, tripped over some fencing wire , went up in the air and hit the ground , got her to hospital ( bush hosp) where the doctor took one look, and said " i dont think you have done any damage and walked away, couldnt get an amubluance to the next hospital without her approval. another doc said she could drive herself on a round trip of 800 km to see an orthopedic doc ( this was months after she fell. the only care she got was from me her carer /daughter. this is just one story the politicians yet again pocket too much and put out too little and the people have no rights
    Hardworker
    1st Jul 2019
    11:38am
    If it were only that simple Ted! You are right about the diet bit but some things lie outside of just diet, including faulty genes. I am now classed as having a chronic disease (asthma) which I hate. I was never an asthmatic until I contracted viral asthma from dirty air-conditioning on a tour coach in Western Australia many years ago. I know of another previously very healthy person (eats well and exercises regularly) who this has happened to and like me, he is very distressed that no matter what he does he cannot get rid of this out of his lungs. Whose responsibility is it to police the cleaning of air-conditioning on coaches - no-ones. Chronic just means long term. The word does not refer to choice. However I see a lot of people choosing to spend their money on entertainment, the latest devices etc. rather than unprocessed good quality food. A lot of people don't seem to understand the basics of how the human body works and what it needs to nourish it properly to stay healthy. The common drinking of Coke Cola and other softdrinks instead of water is one of the biggest issues we have. Just look at how many people put Coke in their grocery trolleys on a regular basis. Also people have stopped cooking for themselves and are taking the easy way out. Unfortunately we cannot make everything ourselves or we would never have any time left to enjoy life. Even our bread these days is full of preservative and other additives. There is also a lot of confusing misinformation out there put out by those who are trying to sell us something. We all need to EDUCATE ourselves on these things but unfortunately there is no hope for the stupid.
    purplejan88
    1st Jul 2019
    11:48am
    you can blame advertising for a lot of that too - we are brainwashed with must do, must have,must go, must be and so on that the FOMO is well alive. if cooking fresh healthy food was promoted as much as the gadgets of today and the entertainment lifestyle we must have then maybe cooking fresh healthy food will become the norm LOL
    purplejan88
    1st Jul 2019
    11:45am
    “The best thing you can do for your health is be wealthy,” - written obviously by someone who doesn't struggle from paycheck to paycheck. and yes fast food has a lot to answer for - however it is affordable and therein lies the issue of some obesity. genetics play a big part too.
    tisme
    1st Jul 2019
    11:52am
    poor people do eat a lot of take aways lets face it its cheaper than buying " healthy" Im guilty of it as nearly all my fortnightly pay goes on rent
    jackie
    1st Jul 2019
    11:53am
    purplejan88, brown rice, dried legumes, fruit and vegetables from bargain bins, markets and other cheap places are still affordable and cheaper than eatouts and supermarket junk.
    TREBOR
    1st Jul 2019
    12:07pm
    ... the poor can always eat cake .... kinda rings a bell, that one... ummmmmmm ....

    BOTR!
    Hardworker
    1st Jul 2019
    12:07pm
    tisme - meat is one of the most expensive things you can buy and the cheaper ones like sausages are not good for you. One pot vegetarian meals that don't take long to cook and have lentils, beans, and chickpeas in them are very good for you and are cheap additions that make the meal go further. The addition of garlic and ginger makes them tasty or growing your own herbs is healthier and cheaper than buying dried herbs. As jackie says look for the bargain bins and try to use what is on special for that week and you can use any bits of left over veges in the pot. Fried rice (brown rice the best but takes a long time to cook) with an egg pancake chopped through it and any leftover bits and pieces and a bit of Soy sauce also goes a long way. Also in Winter make simple healthy soups with some crusty bread or toast. If you don't have the internet to look up recipes maybe some friends or your local library could help you out. I feel for you having to pay so much in rent.
    Rosret
    1st Jul 2019
    6:35pm
    Yes, it seems strange that obesity goes hand in and with poverty. Good food does cost a lot more.
    A cake for a birthday party cost around $10. A platter of fruit was $50. Guess what - they loved the fruit and it was gone in seconds. The cake on the other hand ended up as leftovers in the fridge. People do want the best food.
    KSS
    1st Jul 2019
    7:19pm
    Buying fruit and veg in season does not have to be expensive. Frozen fruit and veg are also cheap and in many cases have at least as good if not better nutritional profile as fresh (especially if you don't know just how fresh fresh is).
    TREBOR
    2nd Jul 2019
    9:58pm
    I used to grow my own and freeze the extra - had tomatoes frozen year round from the summer crop... now my gardens are more modest.... but I still like my homegrown tomatoes...
    Anonymous
    4th Jul 2019
    12:05pm
    Wealth certainly benefits health sometimes, but a friend was shocked to be told that because she had private health insurance she had to pay $780 for a procedure that costs only $360 for pensioners with no private health cover.
    Hardworker
    1st Jul 2019
    11:55am
    As far as our health system goes it is not the GP's who are necessarily at fault but the system. They work for entrepreneurs who supply facilities and appropriate equipment, but at a cost. Once they get the doctors working for them they then dictate how many consultations they should be doing per hour to bring in an appropriate amount of money. So it doesn't matter how many complaints the patient comes in with or how much longer one person might take than another, the poor GP has to try to manage how much actual money they are bringing into the practice. This model has been supported by the Govt. rather than stopped in its tracks. When you go to a doctor you need to prepare and be as concise as possible and not vague so that you can get the most out of the consultation. You also need to warn the practice if you need a longer consultation. If you are not satisfied with the treatment you get then keep trying new doctors until you get one who is attentive to your needs and is prepared to refer you on to a specialist if they feel you are beyond their level of expertise. I know this can be extremely difficult if you live in the country or need to travel some distance to achieve this. What a truly disgusting sad comment to make. “The best thing you can do for your health is be wealthy,” said health policy expert Mr Harris.
    TREBOR
    1st Jul 2019
    11:57am
    The problem with a chronic dis-ease is that it is..... chronic ....... very often the only care is medication to ameliorate the symptoms...

    I'm discussing such a one today with my doc - possibly chronic pulmonary artery stenosis ... sounds serious but it won't kill me - just feels like it... and without massive interventional surgery the answer will be medication.

    Of course - on one side of the kaleidoscope - there are always people who tend to ignore their symptoms and find that their little pain is actually a big one - my brother did that.... and died of a sudden heart attack at 59. Then there are lifestyle choices such as choosing to live in a remote area along 'traditional' lines etc... but pray, do not send in the clowns in the form of the RAAMC, lest it be titled Invasion.
    TREBOR
    1st Jul 2019
    12:05pm
    Oh - this is focusing on those horizontally enhanced? Seems to be the modern thing with many being massive and not necessarily choosing to exercise .... oft-times I wonder if the hormones are what are causing the sometimes huge love handles.... not a good look on a lass..... I'm talking about the unbalanced love handles that extend an extra 3-4 inches from the bone.....

    I blame Macca's, KC, Hungry Jack's, Dead Rooster etc.... oh - and the feminists and the Muslim extremists.... send your love to Sri Lanka - Christchurch has had its share .... 259 trumps 50 any day of the week - but the outrage seems very quiet .... and my Sri Lankan doc had a friend killed in the bombings and now has my approval to bring her mother here........

    (welcome to around the world with Trebor... so many issues - so little time)
    Anonymous
    1st Jul 2019
    12:22pm
    I agree about the RAAMC clowns Bob. Broke a bone in my hand, was advised that it was a sprain, given Aspros, pain still there 3 weeks later, x-ray finally taken, broken bone had started to knit incorrectly and the MO said to hang on to the side of the chair as he re-broke the partly knitted break. The plaster was on by the time I had regained consciousness.
    TREBOR
    1st Jul 2019
    6:07pm
    Ouch - had a metal fragment in the heel of my hand for couple of weeks... kept breaking open and I got it out myself...
    Tommo
    1st Jul 2019
    12:12pm
    What about " chronic" dental health. As pensioners, we had dental treatment, then had to wait 12 months before re applying, then 2 years to be seen again. We went to the Government dental clinic to find out where we are on the list and were told " waiting time is now 3 years " on top of the 12 month waiting time, unless I am a refugee or an Aboriginal or a Torres Strait Islander. Go figure. When was the last time we had refugees? Why are' Aboriginals being given priority over someone who has worked and paid tax for 50+ years? And what Torres Strait Islander in their right mind would come his far south? The Victorian Government don't give a stuff about medical/dental, and people voted them back in !!!!!
    Paddington
    1st Jul 2019
    2:42pm
    Tommo, Victorian government announced a further list of helps today. Thank goodness for them as they lighten the damage done by LNP feds. They got in on a landslide because Victorians are obviously wiser than some Queenslanders or other places.
    Pensioner dental help was promised by Labor feds, did you vote for them?
    Nasty about the Aborigines and refugees, change places with them then, and see how great their lives are!
    Mm, would I change places with a refugee? NO!
    Tommo
    1st Jul 2019
    4:53pm
    Thanks Paddington, well written, each to there own. Who I vote for is nobodies business but mine - with regards to what I said, I meant every word - how long do we continue to hand out freebies to those who have made no contribution, this goes for our Aboriginals as well. I dont know what planet you are on or from, but I have worked long and hard and thanks to Labor ( Mr. 17% ) my family and I lost everything - I had to start again, so Paddington, I have every right to object as I see fit.
    Anonymous
    4th Jul 2019
    12:12pm
    I agree on Aborigines, Tommo. Race should not entitle anyone to preferential treatment. Many whites are seriously disadvantaged and inherited health challenges or suffered them as a result of deprivation in childhood. Many Aborigines, conversely, are well off and had privileged upbringings. I appreciate that statistics suggest Aborigines are far more likely to suffer disadvantage, but that should not entitle the entire race to preferential treatment. All government funded benefit should be dispenses based on need, not race. And yes, Paddington, I would change places happily with SOME Aborigines and with SOME refugees. Many have not endured the hardships and challenges I have, yet they are seen as having superior entitlement merely because I am native born and of European descent. How can you justify that?
    BrianP
    1st Jul 2019
    12:26pm
    Has anyone found the numbers for a rapidly growing chronic addiction just last year recognised by the World Health Organization. Gaming addiction affects around a quarter of Aussies under 45. Families including my own have been destroyed by adult children unable to stop gaming 10 or more hours a day.

    This has resulted in broken marriage, lost jobs, debts, homes lost, social problems, chronic bad health and even violence. The answer in part is rehab centres and social workes are being trained to handle this frightening epidemic. Unfortunately the government is doing very little to help even though the results of gaming addiction are causing massive increases in government costs in health and social problems.
    Anonymous
    1st Jul 2019
    2:58pm
    You have my sympathy BrianP. Don't expect governments to do anything, they are a big part of the problem. It wasn't all that long ago that NSW was the only state with poker machines and to play them you had to be 21 and a member of a licensed club. Because they were so successful in raising taxes for a NSW government, it was legislated that they could go into pubs as well. All of the other states jumped onto the bandwagon and Australia is awash with these insidious, addictive money traps.

    Gaming can be done from the home and closing gaming sites will be difficult but not impossible. A government was able to block music and movie download sites being accessed by Australians so blocking gaming sites would not prove too difficult. The problem with that is not technical but ethical as the music and movie download sites weren't providing income for the Australian government whilst some of the gaming sites are.
    KB
    1st Jul 2019
    2:52pm
    Some conditions are chronic others are genetic and some by poor life choices such as smoking and bad eating habits such as junk food which is readily available at a cheap price As for ne I have inherited many chronic diseases such as osteoporosis You can only do your best to alleviate symptoms yourself before they get wortdt
    KB
    1st Jul 2019
    2:52pm
    Some conditions are chronic others are genetic and some by poor life choices such as smoking and bad eating habits such as junk food which is readily available at a cheap price As for ne I have inherited many chronic diseases such as osteoporosis You can only do your best to alleviate symptoms yourself before they get wortdt
    BElle
    1st Jul 2019
    3:51pm
    Yes do have a chronic condition. I have had it for 70yrs, since I was just 7 years old. Illness left me with a heart condition, which is still with me. I have learnt over the years to control it with diet and exercise. I have received very little medical intervention. It is only in recent years, as I age, that I have received management of the medical implications of the situation.
    Mostly I have responsibility for my own health and with diet and exercise I have controlled my weight which would have a big impact. I have taken "wellness" seriously throughout my life and I credit this with the fact that I am in reasonable health for my age. We all need to take responsibility for ourselves and I feel that many, if not most, rely on the health system to correct the adverse outcomes.
    BElle
    1st Jul 2019
    3:59pm
    I concur with your statement. I recently took a trip to Morton Island. 35degs, in a smelly, badly airconditioned coach. the seats were covered in lambs wool, which I presume was intended to make the 5 hour trip bearable. It didn't and it wasn't. It cost an extraordinary amount for the trip and left me with a very bad impression of the island. I'm told it is a beautiful island, but me experience was appalling.
    BElle
    1st Jul 2019
    4:02pm
    Take-away food is cheap because it is unhealthy rubbish. Mostly you can have no idea what it is you are actually eating. All beef burgers, but which part of the animal. At best is will be offal.
    Jennie
    1st Jul 2019
    5:26pm
    You are correct. Years ago a friend as part of his Management training for a supermarket chain had to visit their own brand "meat" pie manufacturing. He was nauseated by what went in the pies and never ate one again.
    KSS
    1st Jul 2019
    7:27pm
    Offal is highly nutritious and cheap. It's just people these days turn their noses up at it. years ago it was part of the normal diet, liver and bacon in gravy, fried kidneys, roast heart, sweetbreads, tripe all highly nutritious. People need to get over the newfound ick factor.
    Sophie
    2nd Jul 2019
    10:41am
    Organ meats although delicious if prepared properly are high in cholesterol and saturated fat. Cholesterol and saturated fat are now thought to be important for a balanced diet, but they must be consumed in moderation.
    Justsane
    3rd Jul 2019
    1:41pm
    When I was working in an office, I had lots of trouble with the air conditioning. The air never seemed to be flowing, and you couldn't open the windows. I always felt as though I could not get enough air. This, of course, affected my mood and my work, but no-one took you seriously if you complained about the air conditioning. I don't know whether anyone ever examined the air conditioning, or cleaned it out - I think not. I have been out of the office environment for years now and almost never get asthma symptoms. Preventable disease! What preventable disease?
    older&wiser
    4th Jul 2019
    9:48am
    I'm fortunate enough to be in pretty good health and shape for my age (nearly 70). Yes, like most people, would like to lose a few pounds, but isn't a game changer. I started to feel a slight discomfort in my hip - so cut down, lost a few pounds, now does not bother me at all.
    What really gets me is when I do need any procedure done - recently needed some dental work - I was asked 'what medications are you taking'. I answer - none, nothing. But they ask me again - 'no, I don't think you understood me. What type of medication/tablets/medicine are you taking, even vitamin pills?' I reply - "I understood you very clearly. I do not need to, and do not take anything. Zilch'.
    It is almost as though there is something wrong with me because I do NOT take anything!
    Franky
    4th Jul 2019
    8:11pm
    BS, the best thing you can do for your health is to educate yourself and take responsibility for your health. Stay away from doctors and hospitals, they have revolving doors


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