Health is defined as ‘not just the presence or absence of disease or injury – more holistically, it is a state of wellbeing. More years of good health have significant benefit for the community enabling all individuals to lead fulfilling and productive lives. [1]

Health & wellbeing is determined by socio-economic factors, social interaction, education, the built environment, access to green space, employment, financial security, diet and exercise. The significance of these were highlighted by the impact of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of Australians.

The Federal Department of Health recognises the importance of these[2] factors in a persons wellbeing, the Victorian Government Betterhealth website[3] has a page dedicated to wellbeing, its definition, factors & recommendations.

Despite the importance of these socio-economic determinants on health and wellbeing, health departments accept they are ‘focused on treatment of illness and disease’[4]

At its heart Australia’s health system is an ‘illness/sickness’ centred system focused on ‘relieving the burden of disease’.

The aim of the National Preventive Health Strategy is ‘to help Australians improve their health at all stages of life, through early intervention, better information, and targeting risk factors and the broader causes of health and wellbeing.’[5]

The Federal Government acknowledges in the National Preventive Health Strategy, addressing socio-economic factors ‘is shared by all governments, the-non government sector, research and academia, private sector, industries, communities and the individual.’[6]

Despite their role in improving the ‘wellbeing’ of Australians, local and state governments and the non-health private sector[7] were not represented on the National Preventive Health Expert Steering Committee. The committee was limited to acute care, primary and allied health providers, along with a range of patient organisations.[8]

This highlights the inward-looking focus on ‘treatment and illness’.

If Health Departments truly want to improve the health and wellbeing of Australians, if they truly want to contribute to all Australians reaching their human potential, then they need to engage with representatives from all segments of society that touch a person’s life.

Representatives from local governments’, planning and environment, education and training, industry bodies, businesses and unions etc.

Until all the contributors to socio-economic factors are engaged and understand their role, Australian will continue to be burdened with an ‘illness’ system.

The solution to move to a Wellbeing System is very simple. Embed in every policy decision in every level of Government, Local, State and Federal a wellbeing test. Put simply;

‘Which socio-economic determinants does this decision impact?

Does this decision improve the wellbeing of Australians?’

[1] National Preventive Health Strategy Consultation (NPHS) Paper September 2020 pg. 3

[2] National Preventive Health Strategy Consultation (NPHS) Paper September 2020 pg. 5


[4] National Preventive Health Strategy Consultation (NPHS) Paper September 2020 pg. 4


[6] National Preventive Health Strategy Consultation (NPHS) Paper September 2020 pg. 5