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Global Trends Affecting Public Health in Australia

Public Health

Australia’s public health care system may be ranked among the best in the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s immune to the impact of global health trends. Factors like new viruses and diseases, environmental health issues, rising rates of chronic disease and demographic shifts are shaping Australia’s public health system, leading to structural changes across the sector.

Despite the many challenges involved with navigating the evolution of public health in Australia, this period of transition will give aspiring leaders the chance to make a positive difference while building their careers.

Monash Online’s Master of Public Health will ensure you’re ready to make the most of your experience as the following global trends start to affect the public health system in Australia.

New Viruses and Pandemics

Public health will drastically change following the aftermath of COVID-19, a pandemic that has affected the world’s population. Emerging in late 2019, this virus has spread around the world, causing country-wide lockdowns and placing extreme pressure on local public health systems around the world. The deadly effects of the virus are devastating to communities as there is still no immediate vaccine to fight the spread. 

The entire health care industry has faced enormous challenges, from its front-line workers up to top management, everyone is in the fight together. COVID-19 has placed the public health industry in the centre of public discourse requiring an increase in both front-line workers such as doctors & nurses, along with health care managers who can help cities navigate through this public health crisis, and provide long-term strategies to prevent a reoccurrence.


Increased Life Expectancy

Driven by improvements in sanitation, housing, health care, and education, life expectancy rates have increased all over the world. According to the World Health Organisation, global average life expectancy increased by 5.5 years between 2000 and 2016, the fastest increase since the 1960s.

This global trend extends to Australia, where the average life expectancy was 63.5 years for men and 67.1 years for women for people born in the mid-1930s. Fast forward 80 years and life expectancy for people born between 2015 and 2017 is 80.5 years for men, and 84.6 years for women.

Now that people are living longer, the aging population has become one of Australia’s key public health issues. Health research by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that 2.2 million people in Australia were aged 65 – 74 in 2017. By 2047, the number of people in that age bracket is projected to reach 3.3 million.

To meet the demands of the aging population, the Australian health system will need to undergo significant reforms. The task of developing these reforms and leading their implementation will fall to the next generation of leaders in health care. 

Environmental Changes 

Economic development, population growth, and climate change have highlighted the relationship between human health and the environment in recent years. A study of environmental health impacts by the World Health Organisation found that globally, 23% of all deaths and 26% of deaths among children under age 5 are due to preventable environmental factors.

In Australia, the following key areas of concern related to environmental health have been identified by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

  • Air quality 
  • Water quality 
  • Food safety 
  • Ultraviolet radiation exposure 
  • Extreme weather events. 

Given the unpredictable nature of the environment, the growing prevalence of environmental health issues will complicate the delivery of medical services. The Master of Public Health prepares students for managing health promotion in the context of rapid environmental change with the Introduction to Environmental Health learning unit.

Big Data 

Big data is transforming the delivery of health services all over the world. The last decade has heralded huge advances in data collection technologies. The greatest challenge lies in identifying ways to use the data collected. A study by the McKinsey Institute found that big data has the potential to save the U.S. health care system $300 billion dollars a year, proving the value of data on a global public health scale. 

As the digital transformation revolutionises at an international and global level, understanding the role of data in health care is crucial for an industry leader. Broadly referred to as biostatistics, the science of describing, summarising and analysing health-related data is covered extensively in Monash Online’s Master of Public Health. Students will develop the ability to design, conduct and interpret health-related research, giving them the skills needed to capitalise on the potential of data in the health care sector.

Chronic Disease 

One of the most worrying global public health trends to emerge in recent years is the rise of chronic disease. Chronic disease prevalence is expected to reach 57% by the year 2020, with both developed and developing nations beings impacted. 

Defined as lasting conditions with persistent effects, chronic disease incorporates physical and mental conditions, genetic disorders and disability. The 2014-15 National Health Survey found that nearly a quarter of all Australians (23%), and 3 in every 5 Australians (60%) aged over 65 years, had two or more chronic conditions. 

The Australian Bureau of Statistics categorises chronic disease into the following categories: 

  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Back problems
  • Cancer
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 
  • Diabetes 
  • Heart, stroke and vascular disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Mental and behavioural conditions
  • Osteoporosis. 

The social and economic impact of these diseases in Australia will trigger significant changes to public health. To meet the rapidly evolving needs of patients, health care professionals will need to focus on a combination of treatment and prevention, as well as integrated care.

Even though many of these global trends will present Australia’s health care system with complex challenges, they’ll also create opportunities to create positive change. 

Learn more about how the Master of Public Health with Monash Online can help you become a leader in health care by booking a 15-minute phone call with an Advisor today.