Allan Takes Aim Blog

Good health: the no 1 priority

Posted on: 31 March 2010


Published The Chronicle Tuesday March 23

As a boy in Scotland the words “Good Health” were how people toasted each other on New Year’s Eve because good health was of concern for many families. Much of this concern was eliminated in 1948 when the wartime Coalition government’s initiative of a free National Health Service (NHS) was implemented.

The NHS ensured that returned servicemen, unable to work because of the war, would get the special medical attention they needed. Perhaps more importantly it meant that families would no longer have to sell family treasures or do without food so that they could pay for specialist medical attention.

Strictly speaking the NHS was, and is not “free.” And though it was, and still is, partly paid for by the UK’s National Insurance Scheme and taxation, when introduced it was hailed by all as social revolution of the best kind.

Private sector health practitioners allege the NHS has deteriorated. And though I am a great believer in the private sector, I think this is wishful thinking because a recent UK survey showed more than 80% of UK residents gave it the thumbs up. So do I.

Unfortunately, and despite much political rhetoric Australia’s health system seem to have lost its importance as a priority. With few exceptions, politicians will tell you without realising the irony in their words, that without a strong healthy economy the country will quickly go to the dogs. The words “healthy economy” are ironic because without a healthy workforce the economy has little chance of being healthy.

The following spells out what I mean. Just as it is essential to ensure a house is built on strong foundations, good health is the essential bulding block of a productive life. Indeed, if the foundations of a house are weak, sooner or later cracks that need repairing will develop. Unfortunately In some cases the cracks might not be repairable.

As to health’s loss of priority, one need only note the words of politicians to see what I mean. While theoretically discussing the environment, many politicians manage to infer that without a healthy economy both the environment and the country will go to the dogs. Let me reply and say, that without a healthy (and educated) population, the environment and the economy will go to the dogs even more quickly.

I think also that the time has come for Australia to undertake major health reform and create a National Health Service using the best ideas from around the world for example from Sweden, Canada and the UK. I find it odd that as an allegedly egalitarian country, Australia does not have such a scheme.

However, perhaps the current talk of creating a National Disability Insurance Scheme and a National Paid Paternity Leave Scheme shows things are on the move for the many Australians hoping the political miracle of an NHS will take place.

Today, health services only seem to become important before an election. At this time the major parties compete with promises that if elected they will reform the health service. No doubt they will carry out some reform although tinkering might be a better way to describe it.

Generally, real reform only takes place after something has gone seriously wrong, which brings me to the state of health services nationally and to put forward the radical view that a coalition of all federal parties should be convened with sole purpose of devising a NHS.

In the meantime, Australia’s best political tinkerers, the ACT Government, will carry on tinkering with Territory’s health services to try and ensure a sufficiency of voters will be so impressed with its efforts that they will re-elect it in 2012. And with its obsession to be first, perhaps it should show Federal Government the way and invite all parties to join in producing the best health service in the country.

But as I doubt there’s any chance of a health coalition in the ACT what do I think should be priorities of the ACT Government? Health and education should be its priorities because without good health and good education, no community can sustain a strong economy a healthy environment or be culturally and artistically progressive.
dca@netspeed.com.au
The Chronicle, Canberra’s best community news service. Published every Tuesday

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3 Responses to "Good health: the no 1 priority"

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