Determining the Future: a fair go and health for allWorld Health Organisation recommendations ignored by Australian governments, says a ground-breaking book

A book authored by forty leading Australian health and social policy experts says four-year-old recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO) aimed at improving the health of chronically ill Australians should be adopted by the Council of Australian Governments as the next phase of national health reform.

The book, Determining the Future: A Fair Go and Health for All, launched today in Canberra, is a unique collection of essays on the social determinants of health from some of Australia’s leading health and social policy experts – medical professionals, academics, opinion leaders, thinkers and writers. It includes contributions from SHINE for Kids CEO Gloria Larman and SHINE Chair Helen Wiseman.

Aimed at politicians, policy-makers and those working or studying in health, social services, education, housing, political science and social justice, it contains diverse and confronting policy and practical proposals that invite all Australian governments to broaden their health policy parameters to include a new focus on the social determinants of health.

At different stages of a person’s life, the presence or absence of certain social building blocks will determine how long we live and how healthy we will be during our lifetime. Experts know these building blocks as the social determinants of health – the conditions in which we are born, grow, live, work and age. And, according to the World Health Organisation, it is the social determinants of health which are mostly responsible for the unfair and avoidable differences in health status seen within and between countries. This book outlines how the recommendations of a 2008 report of the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health should be adopted in Australia.

Catholic Health Australia CEO and editor of the book, Martin Laverty, said: “COAG has finalised a set of health reforms. The next phase of health reform should be about keeping people well so they needn’t interact with the health system at all, saving taxpayers money in the process.

“The WHO in 2008 invited all Governments around the world to develop action plans on social determinants such as education, welfare, and housing policies. Four years on in Australia, no government has formally responded to the recommendations of the WHO. With the first phase of health reform complete, social determinants should be considered next,” Mr Laverty continued.

“Australians in the lowest socioeconomic group die on average three years early than people in the highest group. Those in this lowest socioeconomic group have twice the rate of chronic illness than those on the highest. Education, employment, and housing play key roles in these health outcomes.

“Keeping people healthy and out of hospital requires action on social determinants which mostly sit outside health policy thinking,” said Mr Laverty, citing:

  • Better assistance for at-risk mothers during pregnancy
  • Expanded early childhood development in disadvantaged areas
  • Assistance to help at risk kids complete their schooling
  • Helping people gain and hold employment
  • Providing adequate housing
  • Supporting people in times of personal crisis
  • Ensuring mental health services are readily accessible.

Order online from Connor Court Publishing for $29.95

Determining the Future: A Fair Go and Health for All includes contributions by: Professor Frank Brennan SJ AO, Martin Laverty, Dr Tom Calma, Mick Gooda, Dr Steve Hambleton, Professor Patrick McGorry, Dr Rhonda Galbally AO, Professor Mike Daube, Dr John Falzon, Professor Fran Baum, Dr Matt Fisher, Colin Wood, Hon Michael Board, Salli Hickford, Taanya Widdicombe, Professor Laurie Brown, Dr Binod Nepal, Dr David Cooper, Ben Harris-Roxas, Michelle Maxwell, Mark Thornell, Sharon Peters, Patrick Harris, Dr Jenny May, Colleen Koh, Professor Leonie Segal, James Doidge, Dr Jackie Amos, Peter Sainsbury, Dr Elizabeth Harris, Marilyn Wise, Melissa Sweet, Helen Wiseman, Gloria Larman, Dr Tim Woodruff, Rachel Yates, Leanne Wells, Scott Brown, David Butt and Liz Callaghan.