Clar­ity and vi­sion lost en route

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Health - Siob­hain Ryan

THE year is 2020. And del­e­gates to last week­end’s fu­tur­is­tic sum­mit would be de­lighted to know that you ar­rive at work on bike. There, you grab a pack­aged por­ridge — colour-coded green’’ for nu­tri­tion — from the cafe­te­ria. It’s a far cry from the fat-soaked sausage and hash browns you’d kill for, but 50 per cent cheaper since the junk-food tax kicked in.

You’ve had a slack, in­dul­gent week­end, so you as­sess the dam­age on your on­line health­book ac­count, adding in read­ings from the bike heart-rate mon­i­tor and the prebreak­fast blood sugar count.

The heart rate’s pass­able. The blood sugar level’s not — too high for some­one with ge­netic mark­ers for di­a­betes and who lives in a high-risk’’ post­code for chronic dis­ease.

An alert flashes on your health­book ac­count. It’s your ge­netic coun­sel­lor, who’s no­ticed the el­e­vated sugar lev­els and sug­gested more ex­er­cise, plus an­other con­sul­ta­tion — gov­ern­ment sub­sidised, of course.

So you take to the stairs, get­ting the half hour of ex­er­cise for ev­ery eight hours of work man­dated by your em­ployer. That too will feed into your health­book ac­count, which you’ve agreed to feed into your firm’s cal­cu­la­tion of its own well­ness foot­print’’.

Wel­come to the 2020 sum­mit’s vi­sion of Aus­tralia’s health fu­ture — so high-tech it’s comes com­plete with plans to de­velop a bionic eye. But, stripped to its core, the big­gest idea from the health talk­fest is an old one — pre­ven­tion is bet­ter than cure. The con­sen­sus on the need to pro­mote well­ness’’, rather than treat ill­ness’’, re­flects the ex­po­nen­tial growth in so-called lifestyle dis­eases. It also fits with the Rudd Gov­ern­ment’s pol­icy for a na­tional pre­ven­ta­tive health task­force.

The fact that we have such a small in­vest­ment in pre­ven­ta­tive health care is just be­ing blind to the fu­ture,’’ the Prime Min­is­ter told the health del­e­gates last week­end. To see the gal­lop­ing ac­cel­er­a­tion of car­dio­vas­cu­lar, di­a­betes and a whole range of other dis­ease cat­e­gories, chronic dis­ease cat­e­gories, it’s just fright­en­ing.’’

The sum­mi­teers’ fo­cus on pre­ven­tion gave rise to some of the head­line ideas of the na­tional thought-fest — a tax on junk food, al­co­hol and cig­a­rettes, clas­si­fi­ca­tion of foods by nu­tri­tional value, manda­tory ex­er­cise at work, and first-aid train­ing in schools.

But it served to dis­tract from trick­ier

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