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Cancer Council lauds preventative healthcare commitment

31 July, 2007

The Cancer Council Australia has welcomed the Federal Opposition's plan for a new national preventative healthcare strategy aimed at reducing the impact of chronic disease in Australia.

Chief Executive Officer, Professor Ian Olver, said the announcement by Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd and Shadow Health Minister Nicola Roxon of a commitment to build chronic disease prevention into the Australian Healthcare Agreements and establish a national taskforce on preventative healthcare represented a potential milestone change in the way Australia's health is managed nationally.

"The Cancer Council Australia has consistently said that Australia cannot afford its current levels of smoking and obesity, given the future cancer burden we already face because of population ageing," said Professor Olver.

"A third of all cancer deaths and a significantly number of cancer cases could be prevented through lifestyle changes. Yet only 1.7 percent of the healthcare budget is spent on measures to encourage cancer-smart behaviour, such as quitting smoking, eating a balanced diet, doing adequate physical activity, minimising alchohol consumption and avoiding excessive UV exposure.

"Prevention is always better than cure and the Opposition's announcements heralds the kind of change in approach Australia needs to reduce the burden of cancer, which will only increase as our population ages if we don't take decisive steps now."

Professor Olver said bringing preventative healthcare into the Australian Health Care Agreements would help ensure cancer prevention gained the focus it deserved in a population health context, while involving non-government organisations in the taskforce would provide an independent source of evidence based advice.

"The greatest potential gains in cancer control are in prevention," he said. "With almost one in five Australian adults smoking, obesity levels increasing, high rates of alcohol consumption and the world's highest skin cancer rates, we have a long way to go to bring preventable cancer burden down to what could be achieved.

"This annoucement signals the kind of culture change and forward thinking we need in Australia to reduce the future burden of cancer, provided it is supported by adequate funding."

Professor Olver said The Cancer Council Australia was a non-partisan, community-based organisation and would be calling on all federal parliamentarians to commit to improved cancer prevention policy in the lead-up to the federal election.

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