Stakeholders want a CDC to have disease prevention focus, as well as control

Australia’s health sector stakeholders broadly support the creation of a national centre for disease control, but would like to see a focus on prevention as well as managing outbreaks.

The Albanese Government, fulfilling an election promise, has provided $3.2 million towards preparations for an Australian Centre for Disease Control, including a recently concluded consultation process with state and territory government’s, academics and researchers and health and aged care stakeholders.

An Australian CDC would help to coordinate preparation and response to pandemics and epidemics, drawing on similar models used overseas. On Monday, Federal Health Minister Mark Butler released a report from stakeholder consultation process.

That report shows strong support for a CDC, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly as a coordinator and decision-maker during pandemics, using best available science.

Stakeholders also indicated the importance of a CDC driving Australian research, rather than federal health authorities relying on international studies to inform policy making, as was the case early in the COVID-19 outbreak.

Data collection was also seen as crucial, with many health commentators and researchers decrying the lack of consistency between state and health data collection and reporting in recent weeks.

One key point to arise was concern among some stakeholders that a centre for disease control was not clearly focused on preventative health.

This echoes recent comments made by the Grattan Institute that preventing chronic disease should be part of the CDC’s mission, a view supported by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and Australian Medical Association in their submissions to the health department’s consultation paper.

“Better chronic disease prevention would improve the quality of life of millions of Australians and save taxpayers billions of dollars in avoided hospital stays and other treatments,” said the Grattan Institute’s health and aged care program director Peter Breadon.

Butler expects the first phase of the CDC will commence early next year with a focus to build on Australia’s strategic reserve of therapeutics, disease surveillance and data sharing and linkage between jurisdictions.

The consultation paper does not discuss where the CDC is likely to be built.

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