Changing individual behaviour is only part of the solution to addressing Tasmania’s poor health outcomes.
This, according to Heart Foundation Tasmanian chief executive Graeme Lynch, who described the lifestyle choices contributing to the state’s chronic health conditions as “ticking time bombs”.
The comments come in response to a report commissioned by St.LukesHealth, suggesting that young Tasmanians will need higher levels of healthcare unless a significant level of investment is made in preventative health.
The report identified nutrition, obesity, physical inactivity, risky alcohol consumption and higher rates of smoking as some of the key factors putting Tasmanians aged between 25 and 34 at risk of future health consequences.
Mr Lynch pointed to the strong correlation between household incomes and health outcomes, as a particular area of interest.
“The report reflects what we know about the profile of the Tasmanian population overall, particularly when it comes to laying the foundations for development of chronic conditions – in particular heart disease and stroke,” he said.
“You don’t expect to see in this age cohort a lot of disease, but it is in this cohort that the foundations are laid – particularly smoking.
“Changing individual behaviours is only part of the solution, but people need to be in a position where they are able to make healthy choices.”
The state government has invested $8.6 million into its Healthy Tasmania plan, along with $6.6 million in community grants aimed at improving health outcomes.
Health Minister Michael Ferguson said the government would continue to take expert advice on preventative health matters.
“It’s important to partner with the community to improve the overall health and wellbeing of Tasmanians, which is why our Healthy Tasmania Strategic Plan has a grassroots focus on community initiatives,” he said.
“This year’s grant recipients for local and community programs are currently being finalised, which will mean supporting a number of new initiatives starting up in communities across the state soon in addition to supporting existing successful programs.”
However Mr Lynch said the government’s preventative health strategy remained “underpowered” in terms of resource and investment.
“The culture is driven to a very large extent by the poor household incomes, housing affordability and lower levels of education. There is no silver bullet to all of this,” he said.
“There is some good evidence – and this report is a part of that – that it’s a matter of powering up the investment so we can really make a difference.
“There are determinants that sit way outside the health department that we need to work on, but there is still lots we can do within preventative health strategies.”