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Australia’s first performance report card on chronic disease has been released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Chronic diseases—such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and mental disorders—are usually long-lasting, persistent and may be associated with disability. Collectively, they are a major burden on those that suffer from them, their carers and the broader community, and this burden is increasing.

The report, Key indicators of progress for chronic disease and associated determinants: data report, presents, for the first time, data on a set of 42 indicators related to chronic disease.

‘The indicators were developed as a first step to consistent reporting, which will—over time—be able to provide information about progress with preventing and managing chronic disease in Australia,’ said Ilona Brockway of the AIHW’s Population Health Unit.

‘The indicators show good news in terms of premature deaths related to chronic disease—that is, deaths in people aged below 75 years—with the rate of these deaths falling by 17% between 1997 and 2007,’ Mrs Brockway said.

This has contributed to overall gains in life expectancy, with Australian males born in
2006–08 expected to live to 79.2 years—an increase of 3.5 years since 1995–97. The same figure for females is 83.7 years, an increase of 2.3 years since 1995–97.

In terms of risk factors of chronic disease, such as smoking, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity, the report paints a more complex picture.

‘On the positive side, daily smoking continues to decrease, with less than 18% of Australian adults now smoking daily compared with over 24% in 1991,’ Mrs Brockway said.

‘On the other hand, almost a quarter of Australian children are currently overweight or obese. For adults the figure is around 60%, and the trend has been increasing.

‘Excess weight is associated with many chronic conditions, so the increase shown in these statistics is of concern.’

‘Adopting healthier behaviours is the key to preventing chronic disease. These indicators will help keep an eye on what’s working in chronic disease prevention.’

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 20 June 2011

Further information: Ms Ilona Brockway, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1127, mob. 0407 915 851

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer (02) 6244 1032

Full report: Key indicators of progress for chronic disease and associated determinants: data report