ACDC’s highway to health starts New Year’s Day

3 minute read

Hopefully a new name will also be developed before we run out of headline ideas.

The interim Australian Centre for Disease Control will be led by Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly from 1 January next year, with the full ACDC expected to be operational by the end of 2024. 

Under questioning from Senator David Pocock at Senate Estimates yesterday, Sarah Norris, assistant secretary of the regulatory policy branch of the Department of Health and Aged Care, said the enabling legislation for the ACDC would be passed during 2024. 

“The full ACDC will happen after that legislation has passed,” said Ms Norris. 

The interim organisation will be housed within the DoHAC, led by Professor Kelly and run from Canberra until the legislation passes and a director can be appointed. The full ACDC will then run independently of the department, with no decision yet made about where it will be based. 

A total of $90.9 million was allocated to the establishment of the ACDC in the May budget, with the possibility of another $12 million being liberated by the likely abolition of the Australian National Preventive Health Agency. 

Ms Norris confirmed that although chronic disease would not be the interim ACDC’s priority it was part of the scope for the full agency once it was up and running, confirmed by the Secretary of Health, Professor Brendan Murphy. 

“The plan is to start the CDC with a focus on transitioning that communicable disease side of the public health response and then progressively transition the broader preventive public health response into the CDC over time,” he told the hearing. 

“We [don’t want] to start too quickly, too big. That will be a progressive transition from the core department into the CDC overtime. That’s the commitment.” 

In a post-budget briefing Health Minister Mark Butler said the first priority of the ACDC would be data-sharing

“We found through the pandemic, that often we at the Commonwealth level did not have a clear line of sight over what was happening in different parts of the system to covid patients, including covid patients who were dying,” said Mr Butler. 

“That is symptomatic of a system that’s not particularly good, often, at sharing data. So data, and infectious disease, given what we’ve gone through over the last three years, will probably be the initial focus of the CDC. 

“But we’re very conscious that the longer-term challenges for our health system are in chronic disease, the opportunities are in prevention.” 

Professor Murphy yesterday confirmed the data-sharing priority. 

“We are working closely with states and territories to have a shared governance,” he said. 

“We would hope that some of the public health data, particularly all diseases data that they collect, we can call up, consolidate and coordinate. They will still run their own public health units and do the on-the-ground public health response.  

“But we would hope that the CDC effectively will bring a very national view to public health response in general. There’ll be much greater collaboration and co-ownership with the states and territories as well.” 

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