Australia's spending on public health activities - those of a preventive, protective or health promoting nature - grew by 21% in 2007-08, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The report Public health expenditure in Australia 2007-08 shows total expenditure on public health was $2,159 million in 2007-08, or $102 per person on average. This was an increase of $444 million on what was spent in the previous year.
The growth was mainly due to a large increase in expenditure on organised immunisation, specifically the implementation of the National Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination program and its initial catch-up phase for women aged between 12 and 26.
The HPV vaccination program is aimed at reducing the incidence of cervical cancer and includes ongoing school-based immunisation programs for 12 to 13 year old females.
'The National HPV program included an additional $235 million of Australian Government funding for HPV vaccine. This was responsible for 53% of the $444 million increase in total public health expenditure,' said Mr John Goss, Principal Economist at the Institute of Health and Welfare.
'The relatively large growth in public health expenditure in 2007-08 meant that public health expenditure as a proportion of total recurrent health expenditure was 2.2% in 2007-08, after being 1.8-1.9% for the previous eight years,' Mr Goss said.
The public health activities that recorded the highest expenditure in 2007-08, were immunisation ($704 million or 33% of total public health expenditure), selected health promotion ($367 million or 17% of total expenditure) and cancer screening activities such as breast, bowel and cervical screening ($290 million or 13%).
Other activities were communicable disease control ($257 million), prevention of hazardous and harmful drug use ($254 million) and public health research ($154 million).
The Australian Government provided the largest share of funding for public health in 2007 08, contributing almost $1,400 million or 63.6% of the total funding.
In 2007-08, the highest average expenditure per person on public health activities occurred in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. Their average expenditure was estimated at $373 and $140 per person, respectively, compared with the national average of $102 per person.