Chronic disease is a major health concern in Australia. The widespread and increasing prevalence of chronic disease is due to the ageing of the population and the growing rate of risk factors such as obesity. In November 2005, the Australian Health Ministers’ Conference endorsed the National Chronic Disease Strategy, a national approach to chronic disease prevention and management. The Strategy is a nationally agreed upon agenda to encourage coordinated action in response to the growing impact of chronic disease on the health of Australians and the health care system. Five supporting National Service Improvement Frameworks were developed for asthma; cancer; diabetes; heart, stroke and vascular disease; and osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoporosis. There is a strong demand in Australia for medical products. Most of Australia’s demand for medical products is supplied by imports, the majority of which come from the United States.
Australia has a population of 22 million. Health expenditure in Australia totals 9 percent of Gross Domestic Product. In 2007, Australia spent a similar proportion of GDP on health as Italy, Norway, and Sweden, more than the United Kingdom (8 percent of GDP), but less than the United States (16 percent of GDP). The market for medical supplies and equipment is mature, competitive, and price-sensitive.
Australia has a high per-capita income and there is demand for a full range of sophisticated medical equipment. The market value for medical devices is approximately US$3.6 billion, representing a little less than two percent of the global market. Australia enjoys a high standard of medical practice, and the demand for medical products is growing because of the population’s increasing affluence, the increase in life expectancy, and the expectation of state-of-the-art medical treatment.
Since 1980-1990, when spending on chronic disease focused on heart disease, spending on chronic disease has now included cancer; asthma; diabetes; depression; osteoporosis; arthritis; hypertension; kidney disease; oral disease; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; and heart, stroke, and vascular disease.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that of the 10.5 million Australians aged 25-64 years, approximately 33 percent reported at least one of the following chronic diseases in 2004-05: arthritis, asthma, coronary heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression, diabetes, osteoporosis, or cerebrovascular disease (stroke). The most commonly-reported chronic diseases were arthritis, asthma, depression, and diabetes. Approximately 10 percent of Australia’s total population suffers from asthma, eight percent from osteoarthritis, five percent from depression, and four percent from diabetes.
Approximately 60 percent of males and 40 percent of females, respectively, are either overweight or obese. The National Chronic Disease Strategy reports that 70 percent of allocated health expenditure in 2000-01 was for the top disease groupings including cardiovascular disease, nervous system disorders, musculoskeletal conditions, injuries, respiratory diseases, mental disorders, neoplasms, and diabetes.