Text says "An Australian Centre for Disease Control. CDC Corner. PHAA's submission to department of health."

PHAA’s submission on the Role and Functions of an Australian Centre for Disease Control discussion paper

PHAA’s submission on the Role and Functions of an Australian Centre for Disease Control discussion paper

Terry Slevin, PHAA CEO

The PHAA has been a prominent advocate in seeking the establishment of the Australian Centre for Disease Control (CDC) for more than 30 years.  We welcome the commitment from the Albanese Government to put this essential piece of public health architecture in place.

The rather hurried consultation “roadshow” has circled the country seeking input and advice. The deadline for submissions falls strictly at 5pm Friday 9 December 2022.

PHAA Officers, staff, and members have been thinking, talking and writing about the CDC for a long time. Our CDC Corner has been a popular and vibrant part of our InTouch Public Health blog.

Of course there will, and should be, a range of views, and distilling them into one submission was always going to be a challenge.

None the less, we’ve produced this near final draft of our submission.  We publish this today, one week before final submission deadline, for two key purposes:

  1. To indicate our thinking on key questions and make that available to any and all groups and individuals submitting to the process. We invite and welcome all our key partners and stakeholders to use this as a resource as they prepare their own contributions. Some may echo our thoughts – some may fell they have better ideas. This is all to the good.
  2. To invite members to view our submission, and to contact us if there are any strong views that we have omitted important issues, or made substantial errors. Members will note this is a “near final draft”. We reserve the right to modify the content as needs be if improvements or better ideas come our way.

Broad support

Through my discussions with many engaged in public health, there are some things that appear to be broadly supported including:

  • The need for the CDC to have an appropriate level of independence from the political considerations of the government of the day;
  • The need for the CDC to build and maintain strong functional relationships with many other parts of government, particularly with States and Territories;
  • The need for the CDC to be properly resourced. This will be a genuine test of the commitment of the Albanese Government to the new agency. A simple truth of government is that the level of financial commitment is a tangible reflection of the priority given to any issue. The CDC budget MUST be in the hundreds, not tens of millions, of dollars;
  • The CDC MUST commence with an active plan and appropriate resourcing for Chronic Disease Prevention. The National Preventive Health Strategy is the obvious path by which this can occur;
  • The imperative to establish the CDC has come out of an infectious disease pandemic. It must be a priority. However, work to prevent chronic disease cannot be relegated to being a poor second cousin;
  • The CDC MUST give focus to the causes of the causes. Proper prioritisation of sections of the community most in need of assistance and support and a focus on equity – is an essential underpinning of public health, and must be so with the CDC;
  • The CDC MUST prioritise efforts that will advance the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;
  • The CDC MUST build public health capacity in Australia. It needs to do so by leading and investing in advancement of the public health workforce, through a range of national initiatives and programs;
  • The CDC MUST be expert, trusted and trustworthy, transparent and also must communicate openly, clearly, and frequently with all its stakeholders, and in particular the people of Australia;
  • The CDC MUST seek to establish itself as a long-term cornerstone agency as an ongoing part of the public health system in Australia with a 50- or 100-year outlook.

I am sure many will have even more “MUSTs” to add to this list.

We hope you find this draft submission useful and constructive. If PHAA members wish to provide input or feedback please do so via policy@phaa.net.au.

Feedback received by COB Wednesday 7 December will be most useful if it is to be incorporated into our final submission. We cannot extend our deadline.

I urge the entire public health community to see the CDC as an opportunity, not a threat. Furthermore, please bring a constructive mindset to all dealings with and about the CDC. Its establishment will not be easy. It will take commitment, encouragement, support and damned hard work to achieve its potential.

Let’s all be part of that effort. The future of the health of people in Australia will in part depend on its success.

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