Raise the Rate to improve health supported by official evidence

Lifting the single Newstart payment by $75 a week would yield widespread health benefits for disadvantaged Australians, and the evidence supporting such a move is contained in the Government’s own publication, Australia’s health 2018, the Consumers Health Forum said today.

“We support the ACOSS Raise the Rate campaign and call on all sides of politics to act on the compelling evidence that people in poverty are much more likely to suffer poor health, higher risk of chronic disease and mental illness,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said.

“The latest official report on the nation’s health, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Australia’s health 2018, states that action on the social determinants of health such as socio-economic status, ‘is an appropriate way to tackle unfair and avoidable health inequalities’.

“The report cites one study’s estimate that if action were taken on social determinants --- and the health gaps between the most and least disadvantaged closed - 0.5 million Australians could be spared chronic illness, $2.3 billion in annual hospital costs could be saved, and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme prescription numbers cut by 5.3 million (Brown et al.2012).

“In Australia the focus has been on social and cultural determinants aiming to close the gap in Indigenous health and that is a goal the Consumers Health Forum strongly supports.

“However, as Australia’s Health reports, the World Health Organisation’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health has suggested that countries adopt a ‘whole of government’ approach to deal with the social determinants of health, with policies and interventions from all sectors and levels of society.

“The evidence shows that actions within four main areas - early child development, fair employment and decent work, social protection and living environment - are likely to have the greatest impact on social determinants of health.

“As experience and numerous studies have shown, in general, every step up the socioeconomic ladder is accompanied by a benefit for health. Poor health can be both a product of, and contribute to, lower socioeconomic position.

“As WHO has declared:

People with lower incomes typically have less money to spend taking care of themselves, whether paying for visits to the doctor, medicine, or healthy food. Stress associated with a lower income, especially during childhood, increases risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes.

“Despite Australia’s record-breaking 26 years of uninterrupted economic growth, about 13 per cent of Australians were estimated to be in relative income poverty in 2013-14, a figure that has changed little over the past 10 years,” Ms Wells said.

“It’s time to Raise the Rate of Newstart by $75.”


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Mark Metherell

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