The Growing Burden of Chronic Diseases in Australia


Ailments are characterized as corporeal or cerebral disorders that involve prognostics, flaws, and tissue damage, which can result in various maladies and can be either acute, chronic, or both. Acute diseases normally come on discernibly and are often abrupt and very intense. Acute ailments normally do not last long and are often treatable. On the other hand, chronic diseases develop over long periods and can last for a lifetime. Chronic diseases are often untreatable. A crucial focal point of the health system is the forestalling and controlling of these ailments.

In Australia, changes in the way of life and the decline in diseases affecting the populace have resulted in chronic ailments becoming more common. Chronic diseases have resulted in consequential monetary encumbrance linked to the consequences of medical management costs and forfeited production capacity that results from illness and death.1 The burden of these diseases is becoming increasingly unbearable and thus, it is in the best interests of the Australian health system to improve the health results through the management and prevention of chronic diseases.

Risk Factors of Chronic Diseases

The determinants that increase the chances of contracting a disease are known as risk factors and can either be behavioral or biomedical. Behavioral risk factors can mostly be modified or altered by an individual, and biomedical risk factors are the bodily states influenced by behavioral risk factors.2 Chronic ailments are accountable for a large number of disease encumbrances in Australia. Many of these are highly avertable via the reduction of identifiable hazardous determinants. The risk factors for chronic illness are diverse and reciprocal, and often require coordinated strategies across multiple levels and sectors for improvement.3 Risk factors are attributes, peculiarities, or vulnerabilities of a person that escalate the possibility of contracting a disease. Altering these factors curtails the risk of chronic ailments flourishing in an individual and results in immense health benefits.

Mitigation Strategies for Chronic Diseases

The clamor against chronic ailments is ineffective due to oversight of the extent of the problem. The priority of focus is on medical care rather than deterrent strategies. It is appropriate to propose interventions targeting disease risk factors.4 To mitigate the negative health determinants, Australia has made significant investments to advance robust lifestyle attitudes. These include encouraging physical activities, remodeling diets, health education, and cutting down on precarious demeanors like smoking. Most Australians have at least a risk factor for chronic ailments involved. Application of mitigation strategies can help in preventing and or reducing the chances of contracting chronic diseases.

Physical inactivity

A sedentary way of life has been assessed to be detrimental to the health of the majority of Australians. About 75% of Australians do not engage in physical activities.2 “Both physical inactivity and sedentary behavior have health hazards and need to be addressed separately.”3 Persons that engage in any amount of physical activities have a meaningful reduction in the chances of contracting chronic diseases. “Although it is underappreciated, physical inactivity is a major contributor to the cause of at least 35 unhealthy conditions.”5 A World Health Organization (WHO) report on health states that being physically active offers significant health benefits and mitigates health risks for individuals.6 The WHO also recommends that the amount of time spent being sedentary should be limited.6 Through encouraging an active lifestyle for the populace, the Australian government can significantly reduce the risk factors for individuals and thus reduce the strain on the health system.

Nutrition and healthy diets

Having a healthy diet is just as important as exercise is to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. On the other hand, poor nutrition is detrimental to health. Prioritizing the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish while reducing the intake of red and processed meats and sugar-sweetened drinks helps to minimize the risk of chronic disease.7 In addition, beneficial results can be realized by consuming nuts, legumes, vegetable oils, fermented dairy products, and coffee.7 Dietary recommendations have also been developed to achieve significant health benefits.8 The government of Australia can promote healthy dietary lifestyles to curtail the development of chronic diseases.

Health education

The health education program is a prevention strategy applied to mitigate the risk of chronic diseases. The program aims to facilitate voluntary actions conducive to the health of individuals and communities. It majors on keeping people healthy by providing information on the risk behaviors that contributes to chronic diseases9. The program is conducted regularly to effectively engage and empower individuals and communities on adopting the best behaviors. By providing educational material that can assist the populace to have information about causative factors for chronic diseases and hence avoid them.


Self-management, also known as self-care, is a significant intervention where individuals have the mandate to cope proactively with their chronic diseases daily. Having the ability to take care of one’s health, especially when health services are not readily available, is quite essential. Thus, self-care is an integrated intervention strategy when it comes to reducing the burden of chronic diseases. An individual will not depend entirely on healthcare providers in the management of the conditions10. Based on this, the strategy has a positive effect on health outcomes and thus, healthcare providers should focus more on promoting self-care as an intervention for managing chronic conditions.

Alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking

Smoking is an extremely harmful and addictive habit. Tobacco is the root causative drug of most illnesses and deaths in Australia and it is linked to a wide range of chronic health conditions that include cancer and cardiovascular diseases.11 Cigarette smoking is the single most significant cause of ill health and death in Australia that is preventable.11 “The consumption of alcohol can lead to the advancement of chronic ailments such as liver disease and can also lead to increased body weight.”11 Although both alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking are legal in Australia the government should introduce tougher penalties for the underage sale of both and thus discourage the populace from partaking.


Since chronic diseases last a long time and sometimes even for the lifetime of the affected, they affect the economy negatively. Chronic diseases limit the productivity of affected persons and their family members as they have to spend both time and money to take care of the afflicted. This in turn results in significant costs to the economy. Preventive measures have to be put into consideration to forestall the chronic conditions, rather than attempt to cure them after their occurrence. This can be accomplished by educating the populace on healthy living through nutrition and education. With 11.9 million hospitalizations in 2018-1912, the situation in Australia is dire and needs correction. The cause of chronic diseases cannot be ignored and tackled once they occur but have to be acted upon as soon as possible to avert the crisis in the Australian health system.


Chronic disease Overview – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Risk factors to health, Risk factors, and disease burden – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Michener JL, Briss P. Health Systems Approaches to Preventing Chronic Disease: New Partners, New Tools, and New Strategies. Prev Chronic Dis. 2019;16:E136.

Wanneveich M, Jacqmin-Gadda H, Dartigues JF, Joly P. Impact of intervention targeting risk factors on chronic disease burden. Stat Methods Med Res. 2018;27(2):414-427.

Booth F, Roberts C, Thyfault J, Ruegsegger G, Toedebusch R. Role of Inactivity in Chronic Diseases: Evolutionary Insight and Pathophysiological Mechanisms. Physiol Rev. 2017;97(4):1351-1402.

WHO Guidelines on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2020.

Schulze M, Martínez-González M, Fung T, Lichtenstein A, Forouhi N. Food based dietary patterns and chronic disease prevention. BMJ. 2018:k2396.

George E, Forsyth A, Itsiopoulos C et al. Practical Dietary Recommendations for the Prevention and Management of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Adults. Advances in Nutrition. 2018;9(1):30-40.

Siminerio L, Albright A, Fradkin J, et al. The National Diabetes Education Program at 20 Years: Lessons Learned and Plans for the Future. Diabetes Care. 2018;41(2):209-218.

Brady T, Sacks J, Terrillion A, Colligan E. Operationalizing Surveillance of Chronic Disease Self-Management and Self-Management Support. Prev Chronic Dis. 2018;15.

Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australia’s health 2020: in brief. Cat. no. AUS 232. Canberra: AIHW. 2020.

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