Promoting good health and preventing illnesses in Australia cost $931 million in 1999-00, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
This represents less than 2% of total recurrent health services expenditure.
'Spending money on public health is a type of investment that puts a brake on future spending', said Tony Hynes, Head of the AIHW's Health and Welfare Expenditure Unit.
'There is a double pay-off from this sort of spending-people enjoy the better health that public health activities provide, and this spending actually leads to reduced need in the future for the more costly treatment services.'
The National Public Health Expenditure Report 1999-00 found that health promotion was the largest area of expenditure, with $166 million spent on programs such as injury prevention, nutrition, mental health awareness, suicide prevention, exercise and physical activity, personal hygiene, and sun exposure and protection.
'Almost two-thirds of the funds ($608 million), however, are spent on programs that aim to prevent illness,' Mr Hynes said.
'These include programs to control communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and sexually transmitted infections, as well as immunisation and harmful drug use prevention.'
Spending on organised immunisation, which accounts for $153 million, includes strategically targeted programs, such as the childhood immunisation, pneumococcal, and influenza programs.
Other major types of activities to receive funding were prevention of hazardous and harmful drug use (including alcohol and tobacco)-$123 million, and breast cancer and cervical screening ($97 million and $81 million respectively).
The report shows that the $931 million was split evenly between the States and Territories and the Commonwealth. The States and Territories, however, delivered most of the programs.
'For the first time, we have reported on public health-type expenditure by local government and some non-government organisations,' Mr Hynes said.
'Our data show that at least $223 million was spent by local governments on public health in 1999-00, and more than $93 million by non-government organisations.'