Immunisation, communicable disease control top national public health expenditure

Australian health departments spent $987 million on public health activities in 2000-01 - which represents 1.7% of total recurrent expenditure on all health services - with immunisation programs accounting for the biggest share of spending, a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has found.

National Public Health Expenditure Report 2000-01 is the third report on public health expenditure by the Australian Government, state and territory health departments.

Public health activities are those aimed at protecting or promoting health, or preventing illness by addressing the factors that determine health, and the causes of illness. By acting to decrease future levels of disease, public health expenditure aims to reduce later spending on health services.

Expenditure for nine core public health activities is detailed in the report.

Organised immunisation programs cost $169 million, or 17.1% of total national expenditure on public health activities, followed closely by communicable disease control at $163.6 million (16.6%).

Selected health promotion, which includes population health programs promoting healthy lifestyles and wellbeing, was the next most significant area of public health expenditure, accounting for $155.3 million (15.7%), followed by activities relating to the prevention of hazardous and harmful drug use at $146.2 million (14.8%).

Head of AIHW's Health and Welfare Expenditure Unit, Tony Hynes, said that public health activity is a joint responsibility between the Australian Government and states and territories.

'Close to $549 million, or 55.6% of total public health expenditure came from the Commonwealth purse in 2000-01. Of this, $296.3 million was spent directly by the Australian Government and $252.6 million as payments to the states and territories,' Tony Hynes said.

The balance of public health funding ($438.1 million or 44.4%) was provided by state and territory governments, which spend 70% of all funds devoted to public health activities in Australia.

In real terms, public health spending rose 8% between 1999-00 and 2000-01. The proportion of all health spending on public health remained at 1.7%.

Two areas showed substantial growth - prevention of hazardous and harmful drug use, up 27% to $146 million, and food standards and hygiene, up 36% to $35 million.


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