AUSactive releases budget submission.

Findings released over the weekend by World Obesity show that without significant action more than half of the world’s population will be overweight or obese by 2035, and with more than two-thirds of Australian adults classed as overweight or obese the upcoming Federal Budget needs to priority physical health, according to peak industry association AUSactive.

Inactivity and productivity loss costs the Australian Healthcare system an estimated $15.6 billion dollars annually (not taking into account the impact of COVID-19) and separately is costing the national healthcare system almost $3 billion dollars every year. It is also estimated $9.9 billion is lost in productivity due to physical inactivity.

To put physical activity on the budget agenda, AUSactive has outlined key recommendations that focus on the overall health and wellbeing of everyone in the community, and that will also save the economy Billions of dollars annually. 

AUSactive CEO Barrie Elvish said if the 2023-24 Budget Submission recommendations were enacted the nation’s physical, economic and health system would be on a strong path towards positive change.

Mr Elvish said:

“Australians are not moving enough, full stop. Physical inactivity is the second leading risk factor contributing to chronic disease and obesity in Australia and is placing an unsustainable burden on the wellbeing of Australians as well as our Health system.” 

“Our 2023-24 Federal Budget Submission provides ongoing solutions to our health crisis that will improve the physical and mental health of Australians and save the Government significant funding by preventing chronic disease in the first place and mitigating conditions for those who are experiencing health problems. 

“With rates of obesity increasing year-on-year coupled with a health system that is already bursting at the seam, the Federal Governments needs to invest in, and allocate funding to, a greater scope of preventative health initiatives, programs and activities.”

AUSactive is calling for the following budget recommendations to be implemented:

  1. Prevention is better than cure (and significantly cheaper) 
    To reduce Australia’s growing rates of chronic disease and poor mental health, and consequent demands on the health system, the Federal Government must accelerate its current preventative health strategy and be more proactive.  
  2. The Government should create a specific Preventative Health portfolio that connects Health and Sport and Recreation ministries. A Minister having specific responsibility for preventative health would have the mandate to address chronic illness and poor mental health in the community, particularly where health inequalities exist due to physical inactivity with lower socioeconomic groups and regional and remote communities. 
  3. Remove Allied Health Barriers 
    Registered, educated and experienced exercise professionals should be recognised under Medicare to deliver safe, evidence-based exercise programs to prevent chronic disease and rehabilitate people with chronic conditions to improve their health. 
  4. Existing Government health programs such as NDIS and My Aged Care should be widened in scope to include preventative health programs  
    Registered, educated and experienced exercise professionals should also be recognised under My Aged Care and under the NDIS to deliver safe, evidence-based exercise programs.  
  5. Activity incentive programs should be made available to all Australians across a broader range of physical activities  To encourage behavioural change, research indicates two thirds of Australians would utilise vouchers to get physically active. The Return on Investment to the Health system is between $3 and $4 per person for each $1 spent. 
  6. The Government must take seriously its commitment to the World Health Organisation’s Global Action Plan on Physical Activity (GAPPA) 
    The former Coalition government signed up to the GAPPA target in November 2018 with a commitment to get 15% more inactive Australians more active by 2030; unfortunately, no progress has been made to date.
  7. Partner and stakeholder legacy support 
    As part of Government funding for the upcoming Women’s World Cup, Commonwealth Games and Olympics, the relevant organisations and associations responsible for governing and coordinating these global sporting events should be required to implement an ongoing legacy of increased physical activity, not just infrastructure, as a result of the event’s exposure and community interest. 
  8. Private Health fund reform 
    Private Health funds are fully aware of the health and financial benefits that come from preventative health activities. Accordingly, they should be given full discretion as to which activities and services they deem will be eligible for member rebates. 
  9. Reallocation of the Health Budget 
    Prioritise funding for ‘preventative’ rather than ‘reactive’ chronic health disease associations through a national physical activity strategy utilising the experience and networks of community, industry associations and grass roots organisations.  
  10. Tax deductions or Fringe Benefit Tax (FBT) exemptions for bona fide physical activities 
    Just as the government uses the tax system to encourage private health insurance, it should do likewise for encouraging exercise.  
  11. Rational consideration of a sugar/fat tax with the proceeds used to fund a long-term public health campaign 
    Proceeds from a sugar tax and/or fat tax could then be used to fund a national public preventative health campaign encouraging ongoing physical activity. This will improve awareness of the risks of physical inactivity and the benefits of getting active.  
  12. Funding for AUSactive’s Movement for Movement 
    AUSactive is well placed to deliver the Movement for Movement Program, a public awareness and activation campaign that is a call to action to get people active through supervised, accessible and tailored group exercise physical activity sessions. 
  13. Take action to address the skills shortage in the exercise and physical activity sector 
    Funding support should also be extended to all Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) registered vocational education providers, whether TAFE or private RTO, for delivery of the courses under the Fitness Training Package as well as courses in the areas of Pilates, yoga and aqua exercise. 
  14. Funding for the expansion of the AUSactive Professional Accreditation program for newly qualified exercise professionals who have just entered the industry 
    As the only recognised accreditation program in the industry, collective access to the program would create career opportunities for exercise professionals, provide enhanced assurance to businesses around the quality of employees coming into the industry, and provide consumers with a higher level of confidence, so they can be reassured when engaging with Accredited Exercise Professionals.