The health care priorities of the new Federal government will include easier access to community mental health services and a greater focus on addressing the high smoking rates in Indigenous communities, according to the newly appointed Minister for Health, Peter Dutton.
Speaking on ABC Radio National’s ‘Life Matters’ program today (25 Sept.) Mr Dutton singled out mental health support as an ongoing priority, saying he intended to capitalise on the efforts made in the past decade by both sides of politics.
Noting that 75 per cent of mental health concerns manifest before the age of 25 years, the Minister stressed the importance of early interventions, including more usage of e-health platforms.
He said the government would be working closely with the National Mental Health Commission chaired by Prof. Allan Fels, to enable better support for ‘first responders’ and less fragmentation of mental health services.
Mr Dutton said more work needed to be done to further de-stigmatise mental health and have it viewed as an illness like any other.
Agreeing that tobacco consumption is a key health concern, he said Indigenous communities – where smoking rates are a “national shame” - and women were key targets for smoking reduction.
However, he would not guarantee the future of the Australian National Preventive Health Agency, which lists tobacco control, along with obesity and harmful alcohol use, as a core priority.
This agency is one of 18 health bodies, many of them dedicated to data collection, which operate outside the Department of Health & Ageing and stand to be reviewed by the new government.
Reducing duplication will be a major part of the review process, the Minister promised.
Mr Dutton said the future of medical research in Australia will also be closely studied in the light of the McKeon Review, Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research – Better Health through Research, released by the previous government in April.
The Minister understood the value of medical research, and added that dementia research was “a real passion for me.”