Chronic diseases are the leading cause of illness, disability and death in Australia, accounting for 90% of deaths in 2011. Over the past 40 years, the burden of disease in Australia has shifted from infectious diseases and injury to chronic conditions. These diseases include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, osteoporosis, depression and cancer. The situation is dire, with around half of people aged 65-74 suffering five or more chronic diseases, increasing to 70% of those aged 85 and over.
Up to 80% of these diseases are caused by lifestyle behaviours, with diet and nutrition being a primary factor.
The Australian Department of Health is currently developing a National Strategic Framework for Chronic Conditions and is now seeking community feedback on the draft framework. The draft framework rightly focuses on prevention as the top priority, but as it stands it does not pay enough attention to our food system, which is geared toward the production and consumption of foods, especially animal products, which increase the risk of developing many of these diseases.
A diet based on unrefined plant foods has been scientifically demonstrated to not only help prevent but even to reverse many of these chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease, at a much lower cost than current medical and surgical treatments, and with the added bonus of being entirely free of adverse effects. In fact, the only 'side effects' of adopting a wholefood plant-based diet are positive ones: weight loss, enhanced energy, and an overall improvement in quality of life.
The framework puts little emphasis on public education programmes or research into behaviour change to help encourage people to eat more healthily.
Vegan Australia has teamed up with vegan nutritionist Robyn Chuter who is writing a response to the proposed framework. If you would like to make a submission yourself, please go to the Health Department Public Consultation website. To get in touch about the Vegan Australia submission, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions close on 22 June 2016.