Stepping up to the challenge of preventing chronic disease

Chronic disease is the leading cause of illness, disability and death in Australia, accounting for 90% of all deaths in 2011 (AIHW 2011b).

Because of its personal, social and economic impact, tackling chronic disease and its causes is the biggest health challenge Australia faces. A growing understanding that many of these diseases arise from similar underlying causes, have similar features, and share a number of prevention, management and treatment strategies, as well as significant and increasing costs, is challenging us to transform the way we respond to chronic disease.

A recent international study found that in Australia and New Zealand, chronic diseases together caused 85% of the total burden of disease, a similar figure to chronic diseases accounting for 90% of the burden due to deaths alone (IHME 2013).

The largest disease groups contributing to the Australasian burden of disease in 2010 were cancer, musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and mental and behavioural disorders. The five leading individual causes of disease burden—heart attack, low back pain, COPD, depression and cerebrovascular disease—accounted for one-quarter of the disease burden.

Many chronic diseases share common risk factors that are preventable. Modifying these can reduce the risk of developing a chronic condition, leading to large health gains in the population through the reduction of illness and rates of death. Chronic diseases are closely associated with modifiable risk factors:

  • smoking
  • physical inactivity
  • poor nutrition
  • the harmful use of alcohol.

These behaviours contribute to the development of biomedical risk factors, including overweight and obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, which in turn lead to chronic disease. Seventy per cent of all cardiovascular disease mortality in Australia has been attributed to the combined effects of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and physical inactivity (Begg et al. 2007).

A key focus of the Australian health system therefore is the prevention and better management
of chronic disease to improve health outcomes. Many common chronic diseases are amenable
to preventative measures such as changes in behaviour. These changes, together with timely and better medical treatments, are important in improving chronic disease health outcomes. Identifying populations most at risk and monitoring and evaluating preventative interventions are also important (AIHW 2011b).

There is great potential in an integrated and coordinated approach to chronic disease care using shared prevention, management and treatment strategies. Reducing obesity, for example, may prevent diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and certain types of cancers.

Medical Centres can claim some great financial incentives within our current Medicare Model; the average earning potential for a GP from these incentives alone could be $45,000 per annum. The key to this earning potential is having engaged clients.

At MediCoach, we will show you how to not only reduce the current health burden but also how to earn yourselves great financial rewards along the way. Your clients will feel better for their new found health and wellbeing. Anecdotally we have found this to not only impact the individual but the community as a whole.
We’re here to help you engage, streamline and prosper. For more information about MediCoach workshops, contact Kim Poyner on 0408 174 231.


  • AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2010. Contribution of chronic disease to the gap in adult mortality between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and other Australians. Cat. no. IHW 48. Canberra: AIHW.
  • IHME (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation) 2013. DALY estimates for Australasia. Viewed 1 November 2013,
  • Begg S, Vos T, Barker B, Stevenson C, Stanley L, Lopez AD 2007. The burden of disease and injury in Australia 2003. Cat. no. PHE 82. Canberra: AIHW.