The Australian Centre for Disease Control (ACDC): Highway to health

by Peter Breadon, Lachlan Fox, Owain Emslie

12.02.2023 report


Australia is sleepwalking into a sicker future that will condemn millions of Australians to living with avoidable disease and disability.

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The Albanese Government’s promised Australian Centre for Disease Control, or ACDC, could provide the wake-up call we need – but only if preventing chronic disease is a core part of its mission.

Chronic conditions are the biggest killer in Australia, contributing to 9 in 10 deaths.

The burden is heaviest on the most disadvantaged Australians, who are twice as likely to have two or more chronic conditions.

And the toll will keep growing, because many of the causes of chronic disease, such as obesity, are rising dramatically.

Changing course will require shifting policy focus from sickness to health, by encouraging more people to quit smoking, eat less sugar and salt, and exercise more.

Australian governments aren’t doing enough to stop chronic disease before it starts. Often, they are distracted by urgent crises, or vested interests in the tobacco and food and beverages industries use their financial power and political influence to stymie reform.

The ACDC – promised by Labor in the lead-up to the 2022 federal election – should be at the heart of a new national project to prevent chronic disease.

It should advise federal and state governments on prevention strategies that work, and set priorities for prevention research.

Federal and state governments should commit to a new funding agreement for effective prevention programs identified by the ACDC, and to considering any regulatory changes it recommends.

Better chronic disease prevention would improve the quality of life of millions of Australians and save taxpayers billions of dollars in avoided hospital stays and other treatments.

The ACDC must be independent, to keep governments on track. And a new body alone won’t be enough, governments must also commit to more prevention funding.