This article has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication. It is in production and has not been edited, so may differ from the final published form.
Australia’s National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health: Critical reflections from States and Territories
Issue addressed: Australian efforts to tackle the burden from chronic diseases through prevention have included numerous strategies, committees, policies and programs. This research reflects on this changing landscape, with focus on the most recent, and most significant, investment and subsequent disinvestment in preventive health, the National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health (NPAPH). The purpose is to better understand the place of the NPAPH in Australia’s prevention landscape, explore views from senior health department personnel on the NPAPH and identify lessons for the future. Methods: Individual and small group semi-structured interviews were undertaken with 19 senior public health managers and program implementation staff from State and Territory health departments across Australia. A grounded theory approach was used to generate themes relevant to the research. Results: Participants reflected positively on the NPAPH, mostly that it established a strong platform for the national roll out of programs supporting healthy lifestyles, it created core infrastructure that elevated the rigour and sophistication of prevention activities and it was achieving or on the way to achieving its desired outputs. However, despite promising potential, governance arrangements over chronic disease prevention were not clearer either throughout or post the NPAPH. While partnerships between State and Territory governments, as well as with other sectors, were seen as a strength of the NPAPH, many viewed the role of the Commonwealth in the NPAPH as limited to funding. Conclusion: Longer-term investment in, and leadership for, chronic disease prevention is necessary. The NPAPH built on positive reforms at the time, creating opportunities for implementing programs at scale, building workforce capacity and improving evaluations. Early termination of the NPAPH meant potential return on investment was unrealised, new partnerships could not always be sustained and the prevention workforce was again under threat. Further, responsibility for prevention, which was never clear, became even more opaque.
HE16123 Accepted 20 March 2017
© CSIRO 2017