By Professor Sheena Reilly, Pro Vice Chancellor (Health), Griffith University

The Palaszczuk Government’s 2018 State Budget has been delivered with a commendable focus on strengthening frontline services and managing the rising demand of health services.

The Minister for Health and Ambulance Services, the Honourable Dr Steven Miles MP, said the budget reflected the Government’s commitment to providing quality health services across Queensland, with almost $1.5 billion to be invested in healthcare specifically on the Gold Coast in 2018-19 – a record investment in healthcare in the region.

We welcome the government’s investment to meet increasing demand and keep Queenslanders healthy by improving critical health infrastructure, enhancing medical technology, boosting frontline staff, and importantly focusing on approaches to promote good health as well as proven prevention programs.

However, the road to better health outcomes for all Queenslanders remains long.

As a leading health academic institution, Griffith University can pinpoint three crucial areas that health policy and decision makers must target for urgent attention.

Obesity and Overweight

Recent figures show obesity costs Queensland close to $2 billion per year, of which 44% is due to health system costs, 40% to tax forgone, 12% to productivity losses, and 4% to government subsidies. The impact of loss of wellbeing and premature death was assessed at a staggering $9.5 billion annually.

Even a small degree of weight loss can bring health and societal benefits, and I commend the Overweight and Obesity Prevention Strategy, part of the Health and Wellbeing Strategic Framework 2017 to 2026, for setting a prevention-focused pathway.

But there is always more to be done. Effective action need not be costly.

There are two key low-cost strategies to help reduce rising obesity levels with the focus on discouraging the consumption of energy-dense foods, which are cheap, widely available and heavily marketed.

These low-cost strategies are:

  • banning the sale of drinks with added sugar from premises such as schools, hospitals and universities; and
  • banning TV advertising of all junk food and drinks with added sugar during children’s viewing hours.

Domestic and Family Violence

The unqualified success of the State Government’s implementation of the recent Not Now, Not Ever initiative is a landmark step in uniting Queensland in ending domestic and family violence.

These initiatives are only a small piece in a larger jigsaw, and continued effort must be taken to improve awareness and education of domestic and family violence.

Griffith University recommends an approach in which there is targeted funding for those who are at an increased risk of domestic violence compared with the rest of the population. These include, but are not limited to, First Australian women and culturally and linguistically diverse women and their families.

Mental Health and Wellbeing

Griffith University is a leader in research and education in mental health and wellbeing, with our internationally acclaimed Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP) a collaborating Centre for World Health Organisation (WHO).

We applaud the Government for its increase in funding to enhance community mental health treatment services essential for the one in five Queenslanders experiencing a mental illness or substance use disorder. We feel the impact and cost of mental health problems can be reduced by providing better services and support in our communities.

Introducing improved surveillance systems for suicide and attempted suicide in Queensland will provide much-needed information about suicidal behaviour, evaluate best practice for interventions to reduce suicidal behaviour at the individual, community, and population level, and provide strategic and policy-oriented advice.