Cheers to a longer life
WHILE a popular national pastime is to criticise governments, they also do a lot of good, sometimes unsung.
SA Health’s Chief Public Health Officer’s Report 201416 is full of examples of where the invisible hand of government is keeping the community healthy and safe — and in the process adding years to life expectancy.
These include: antismoking campaigns, antidrink driving laws and education, multiple cancer screening programs, sun safety education, flu immunisation programs, mosquito eradication and warnings, public swimming pool hygiene laws, alerts about extreme weather events, monitoring and tracking infectious disease outbreaks, and much more.
The enormous success of public health programs is reflected in life itself — life expectancy of South Australian females and males at birth in 2015 was 84.4 years and 80.3 years respectively – an increase of one year (females) and 2.2 years (males) over the past decade.
This in turn raises new challenges, which have been outlined in the Chief Public Health Officer’s report.
Success in dealing with infant mortality and childhood diseases means more people are living to be senior citizens that ‘older’ age itself is being redefined — for example the age to qualify for the age pension is gradually rising, from 65 to 67.
Diseases and conditions due to age and lifestyle which now are major challenges were barely on the horizon of past generations: dementia, heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis and so on. In fact seven of the top 10 diseases causing the “total burden for South Australia” all have some links to age and lifestyle — coronary heart disease, dementia, back problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, musculoskeletal conditions, lung cancer and stroke. The final three are anxiety, depression and suicide.
Where once we came from family groups, tribes and villages, now one of the great challenges ahead is loneliness.
The report notes 27.9 per cent of South Australian dwellings now have one resident. While ensuring older South Australians can stay independent in the familiar surroundings of their own home is important, so is ensuring they have a close network of family, friends and regular social activities to help with good physical and mental health. THE REPORT IS ON SA HEALTH WEBSITE: SAHEALTH.SA.GOV.AU.