A well-placed anonymous source has identified some cutbacks in critical areas which, strangely enough, the Budget press releases are not spruiking. The source also raises some pertinent issues about the future of the National Preventive Health Agency. The source writes:
“I think Yvonne Luxford may be wrong in her comment, on Croakey, that “the much needed Prevention/Public Health Agency has not come to fruition”. The Health Portfolio Budget Statement says (on Page 94):-
The COAG National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health funds four key programs to support activity in this area. First, a National Preventive Health Agency with the remit of providing evidence-based policy advice to Health Ministers and managing national-level social marketing activities.
And commits the department to:-
The establishment of the National Preventive Health Agency in 2009-10. (Page 95)
The Department will establish and support the ongoing administration of the agency (Page 59)
Which suggests the Agency will be set up within the Department. I suspect many advocates for such an Agency will find that hard to take.
It certainly falls well short of the vision set out by Rob Moodie and others in their paper for the NHHRC. Given that Moodie is the Chair of Preventative Health Taskforce, it’s tempting to ask whether this is a move to water down their recommendations before they emerge.
There are a few other nasties hidden away in the Budget papers too:-
- ‘Hearing services – introduction of hearing threshold’ – saving $33.9 million over 5 years – with no clear explanation of what that means in practice
- Big cuts (totaling more than $120 million over 5 years) to the previous Government’s Australian Better Health Initiative
- A cut of $34.8 million attributed to “further efficiency” in e-health programs
- A cut of $31.9 million by reducing “duplication in research effort” in diabetes. Why was there duplication in the first place? Isn’t diabetes a priority?
Stephen Leeders’s comment in an earlier Croakey post,“Pity about the special funding for public health education being abolished” is well-made, especially considering that one of the “Key strategic directions” under Outcome 1 (Population Health) is to “strengthen the evidence base for prevention of disease, build public health workforce capacity, and improve child, youth, women’s and men’s health.”
Seems a bit odd if we’re now focused on prevention and facing the threat of further pandemics.”
If our Croakey source is on the money, we can expect to be hearing more about these issues…