‘Interim’ ACDC wins $91m in funding

3 minute read

The DoHAC has committed to a starter CDC housed within the department, with more to come.

In a post-budget briefing Health Minister Mark Butler has expanded on the commitment to dedicate $91.1 million over two years to the establishment of an Australian Centre for Disease Control – or, in a gift to headline writers, ACDC.

“If this thing is going to work, we need the wholehearted buy-in of all states and territories to do this,” said Mr Butler.

“There are quite substantial funds allocated to the first stage of building a CDC. That will be an interim CDC housed within the Department of Health.

“That is not the long-term option, in terms of what sort of statutory authority or other model might be agreed upon by all governments … [that] hasn’t yet been decided.

“First priority is around data, and a very clear sharing of data in one repository, which will be the CDC.

“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.

“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.”

The Public Health Association of Australia has previously said any Australian CDC needed to have a budget in “the hundreds of millions of dollars, not tens”.

In response to the budget measures, PHAA CEO Professor Terry Slevin reiterated that sentiment.

“The $90 million dollar announcement is an encouraging start, but it is just that – a start,” he said.

“The Government will need to look beyond the horizon and put sustainable funding in place to ensure the ACDC is doing leading public health work for decades to come.

“It needs to be a well-established, long-term leading agency if it is to create enduring health improvements for current and future generations.”

Independence has been nominated by the AMA as a vital characteristic of a CDC.

“The CDC must have the confidence and the funding structure to act in the public interest and not in the political interests of the day,” AMA president Professor Steve Robson has said previously.

“The advice released by the CDC to the public and medical community must be evidence based, transparent and independent from all political and external influences.”

Whether that can be done from within the department remains a question for debate.

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