Health spending increases as Australians live longer

A new report, Health at a glance-OECD indicators 2005 is the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's third biennial report comparing key health data across its 30 member countries. Australian data for the report were supplied by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report shows that in 2002, Australia's mortality rate of 526 per 100,000 (OECD age standardised) was the second lowest among OECD countries and well below the OECD average of 650 per 100,000. Only Japan at 449 per 100,000 had a lower rate.

Substantial declines in cardiovascular disease mortality in recent decades have contributed to Australia's low rate.

The amount of resources Australia devotes to health expenditure has increased from 7.8% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1990, to 9.3% in 2002 (more recent Australian data shows that the ratio rose to 9.7% in 2003). This trend of rising expenditure on health care was also evident in other OECD countries.

Australia ranked 10th in terms of per capita health expenditure in 2002, spending about half of what the United States spends per person (AUD $3,678, equivalent to USD $2,699 per person).

The main drivers of increasing health expenditure in most OECD countries are the demands of an ageing population and the development and increased use of medical technologies and drugs.

Australians gained an average 9.4 years in life expectancy between 1960 and 2003, to 83 years for women and 78 years for men, putting Australia in the top six countries for both men and women.

In controlling childhood disease and mortality, immunisation has been shown to be one of the most effective measures.

'In 2003, Australia had 92% immunisation coverage for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, which was slightly below the OECD average of 94%, and 94% for measles, which was above the OECD average of 91%,' AIHW's Mr Michael de Looper said.

The report shows that Australia is among the world leaders in reduced tobacco consumption, with 19.8% of adults aged 15 years and over smoking daily in 2001, reducing to 17.7% in 2004. Among other OECD countries, an average of 26% of adults aged 15 years and over smoked daily in 2003, rising to 30% or more in Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Hungary and Greece.

In contrast, Australians aged 25-64 had relatively high adult obesity rates (22% in 1999-2000). Other countries with similar higher rates are the United States (31% of adults aged 20-74 in 2002), Mexico (24% of adults aged 15 years and over in 2000), and the United Kingdom (23% of adults aged 16 years and over in 2003).


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