Direct Action fund appeal: Rudd's not so healthy reform

The Rudd Labor government has dubbed its health and hospital reform package a “health revolution”, but it is a con. It will shuffle around working people’s taxes but will not make any fundamental difference to combating the escalating health problems in Australian society. Chronic diseases — diseases that are long lasting, recurrent or debilitating for at least six months — have been steadily increasing in Australia, most significantly in Indigenous communities. Among workers, women, young people and the elderly, chronic diseases are becoming more prevalent and more debilitating.

Typically, chronic diseases include cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity and the different types of cancer. These are joined by mental health conditions, some of which were once only marginally reflected in society, such as depression or obesity in children. The rate of childhood obesity in Australia is now one in five. Paediatricians and child mental health practitioners are now assessing a new condition termed nature deficit disorder — a psychological condition in which children have become conditioned to fear the natural environment and/or have recreational lifestyles confined to interactions with computers and other electronic devices.

The essential element in dealing with chronic disease is prevention, on which Rudd’s healthcare reform con delivers nothing. In a statement released on April 21, Professor Ian Olver, chair of the Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance, noted: “While improving hospitals is important, keeping people healthy and out of hospital in the first place is also vital for a sustainable health system. Yet only 2.3% of health system expenditure is on prevention.’’ He continued: “Over four million Australians already suffer from largely preventable chronic diseases associated with smoking, obesity and alcohol abuse — diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease. Millions more will join them unless we get serious about tackling these risk factors.”

Chronic disease is a global problem. According to a study completed by the World Health Organization in 2005, chronic diseases are the major cause of death and disability across the world. Australia reflects this situation, with chronic disease estimated to be responsible for approximately 80% of the total burden of disease and injury. The cost to the health system of these diseases is expected to triple to more than $40 billion a year within 20 years.

Tinkering with the health system will not get to the root of the problem, which is ultimately the profit-driven capitalist system and the exploitation, alienation and destruction of human lives that it generates. Socialists have long recognised this destructive impact. In the 19th century, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels were the first to analyse systematically and scientifically the impacts of capitalism on society, how it eats away at the physical and mental well-being of human beings and destroys the environment that humanity relies upon for sustenance.

Join us in the fight to bring about a more humane, environmentally sustainable and healthy world. We need your help to get there and to get the message out that there is an alternative to capitalism. Please make a donation to the Direct Action fund appeal and help us reach our $35,000 target by the end of this year. So far we have raised $16,022.54 thanks to our supporters. You can make a donation by sending a cheque or money order to Direct Action, Suite 72, 65 Myrtle Street, Chippendale NSW 2008.