Preventable deaths decline but more to be done

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The most common cause of death in Australia remains cancer and cardiovascular disease, according to a new report from the Productivity Commission.

The Commission has released the 'health' chapter of its 2019 'Report on Government Services'.

It identifies cancer and cardiovascular disease as the common causes of death in Australia. However, it also says the rates for both have reduced significantly since 2008.

It says many deaths could be prevented through a range of interventions, including individualised care, hospital and primary care, including pharmaceuticals and other medical technologies.

"Nationally, there were 102.7 potentially avoidable deaths per 100 000 people in 2017 — the lowest rate for the 11 years of data in this Report," says the report.

"The rate of potentially avoidable deaths in 2013–2017 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was more than three times the rate for other Australians, but similar to the total population is the lowest rate for 11 years of data in this Report."

The incidence of some preventable diseases are in decline but remain significant. The report covers preventable diseases such as selected cancers, heart attacks and type 2 diabetes.

The rate of heart attacks was 336.2 cases per 100,000 people in 2016. This rate has decreased each year over the ten years to 2016 - by a total of almost 40 per cent. The rate for females is still less than half the rate for males.

The age-standardised rate of new cases for selected cancers is highest for female breast cancer (124.2 per 100,000), followed by bowel cancer, melanoma and lung cancer (57.0, 52.5 and 42.4 per 100,000 population). It was lowest for cervical cancer (6.8 per 100,000).

The report says total spending on health by the federal, state and territory governments, topped $112 billion in 2016-17.

Public hospitals secured the largest share of this funding, at $63.8 billion.

The average life expectancy at birth was 80.5 years for males and 84.6 years for females in 2015–2017, says the report. It was 55.2 years for males and 58.8 years for females born between 1901 and 1910.

However, the life expectancies of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians remain considerably lower than those of other Australians, with a life expectancy at birth of 71.6 years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and 75.6 years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females.