National

Smoking, child wellbeing in 10-year plan

By AAP Newswire

Less than one in 10 Australians will smoke in five years time if the Morrison government has its way.

The nation will also soon have a strategy for improving the mental health of its children, under a broader 10-year health plan unveiled by Health Minister Greg Hunt.

The plan is aimed at improving the prevention and treatment of health conditions in Australia by 2030.

It will involve guaranteeing Medicare, improving access to medicines, supporting public and private hospitals, prioritising mental health and preventative health and investing in medical research.

Mr Hunt said now is the time to target the smoking rate, with progress on that front slowing in recent years.

"This is the moment where we have to push further," he told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.

The government wants to bring the rate of those who smoke down from 13.8 per cent to below 10 per cent by 2025.

It already has a $20 million awareness campaign in the works to aid that goal, and is targeting smokers in indigenous communities.

"But there will be more work to do," Mr Hunt said.

The new children's mental health strategy will include a focus on reaching out to young people who may be struggling through schools, clubs and at work.

Infant and child mental health group Emerging Minds has been advocating for such a strategy since 1995.

Mr Hunt also wants to work with the states on creating a more integrated mental health system over the next two years, encouraging each of them to have a dedicated youth mental health unit.

Tens of thousands of Australians will also be surveyed about their mental and physical health in an effort to better inform health policies and reforms.

Four surveys will be conducted through the Intergenerational Health and Mental Health Study, held over the course of three years.

It will involve 60,000 people and cost about $90 million.

The first of these surveys, in mid-2020, will be focused on mental health and wellbeing. The last survey of this kind was done in 2007.

The second of the new surveys will be the National Health Study, tracking people's characteristics and chronic health conditions.

The government will also fund a National Nutrition and Physical Activity Study and a National Health Measures Study, where people will have the chance to give blood and urine samples.

The Public Health Association of Australia embraced the step, saying the government should next embed such data collection into the health system for ongoing research.

"We don't want to wait another 10 years. Regular research will ensure the best use of our resources in health care and prevention," chief executive Terry Slevin said in a statement.