Greg Hunt launches 'Long Term National Health Plan'

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Health minister Greg Hunt has announced a new national health plan that features a strong emphasis on mental health for children.

Launching the plan at the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday, Mr Hunt said it recognises that depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and psychosis are health problems to be treated just like diabetes, asthma and broken bones.

"It charts the way forward over the next three and 10 years in the key areas of mental health, primary care, hospitals, preventive health and medical research," said Mr Hunt.

The plan includes a 2030 mental health vision, including a new strategy specifically for children under 12 years, a 10-year Primary Health Care Plan, continued improvement of private health insurance, a 10-year National Preventive Health Strategy and the 10-year Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) investment plan.

On private health insurance, Mr Hunt said, "We have begun the next wave of private health insurance reforms. We are working collaboratively with insurers, hospitals and doctors to deliver a better outcome for consumers. Our first round of reforms delivered the lowest premium changes in 18 years."

Mr Hunt the plan will be informed by a multi-year study of more than 60,000 Australians that is designed to provide the most complete picture ever of the country's physical and mental health.

This Intergenerational Health and Mental Health Study will cover mental health, general health, nutrition and physical activity.

"The Children’s Mental Health Strategy will provide a framework to embed protective skills in early childhood, create mentally healthy home environments, support parents, and prevent or treat early childhood trauma," said Mr Hunt.

"The expert working group developing the Strategy will be co-chaired by Professor Frank Oberklaid and Professor Christel Middeldorp. Two internationally recognised leaders in child mental health."

Mr Hunt said the federal government's 10-year Primary Health Care Plan will support GPs to provide more flexible care for patients over 70 with chronic and complex conditions, through a new patient enrolment payment model rather than fee-for-service MBS items.

The 10-year National Preventive Health Strategy will target a lift in cancer screening rates across the three current population-based cancer screening programs – bowel, breast, and cervical. Mr Hunt said Cancer Australia has also been asked to investigate the potential for a national lung cancer screening program.

"Australia is set to be the first country in the world to eliminate cervical cancer through vaccination and screening," he said.

Mr Hunt said the government is also backing medical research through the $5 billion MRFF investment plan.

"A total of 54 clinical trials are now being funded through the MRFF. Within 10 years, we will have established Australia as a global centre for clinical trials," he said.

"Eight research missions covering brain cancer ($124.7 million), mental health ($125 million), genomics $500 million), ageing, aged care and dementia ($185 million), Indigenous ($160 million), stem cell ($150 million), cardiovascular ($220 million) and traumatic brain injury ($50 million) are funded through the MRFF. Over time, they will transform health care.

"Work on breakthrough treatments includes the $20 million Mackenzie’s Mission to research rare genetic conditions like spinal muscular atrophy and fragile X syndrome, and the $50 million Genomic Cancer Medicine Program."