Australia set for new 10-year health plan

Minister for Health Greg Hunt says smoking and mental health will be target areas

By AAP

 

Fewer than one in 10 Australians will smoke in five years time if the Morrison Government has its way.

The nation will also soon have a strategy for improving the mental health of its children, under a broader 10-year health plan unveiled by federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt.

The plan will involve guaranteeing Medicare, improving access to medicines, supporting public and private hospitals, prioritising mental health and preventive health, and investing in medical research.

Mr Hunt says now is the time to target the smoking rate, with progress on that front slowing in recent years.

“This is the moment where we have to push further,” he told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.

He said the government wanted to bring the smoking rate down from 13.8% to below 10% by 2025.

It already had a $20 million awareness campaign in the works to aid that goal and was targeting smokers in Indigenous communities, Mr Hunt said.

The new children’s mental health strategy was set to include a focus on reaching out to young people who might be struggling through schools, clubs and at work.

The federal government would also work with the states on creating a more integrated mental health system over the next two years, encouraging each to have a dedicated youth mental health unit, he said.

Tens of thousands of Australians will also be surveyed about their mental and physical health in an effort to better inform health policies and reforms.

Four surveys will be conducted through the Inter­generational Health and Mental Health Study, held over the course of three years.

It will involve 60,000 people and cost about $90 million.

The first of these surveys, in mid-2020, will be focused on mental health and wellbeing. The last survey of this kind was done in 2007.

The second of the new surveys will be the National Health Study, tracking people’s characteristics and chronic health conditions.

The government will also fund a National Nutrition and Physical Activity Study and a National Health Measures Study, where people will have the chance to give blood and urine samples.

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