Prevention Best Medicine for Aged Care

| September 14, 2009

Australia’s health system is under the microscope; and the new “yourHealth” reforms being rolled out by the Federal Government are in the public forum for debate.

Reforms should be focused on preventative measures rather than curative ones.
This is an area where organisations like Meals on Wheels will prove essential. Meals on Wheels represents a vital community service which fits squarely into the preventative category of health care.
In an interview for this blog, NSW Meals on Wheels CEO Les MacDonald supported this view, “Virtually all the research that has been carried on around the world shows that expenditure on prevention is more cost effective than on cure.” Mr MacDonald says.
Each year Meals on Wheels relieves stress from an already burdened health care system.
Meals on Wheels acts as a crutch to elderly and disabled individuals, many of whom, without the service may be forced out of their homes and into care facilities. Meals on Wheels helps by providing them with a nutritious meal and much needed social contact.
The meals and social contact provided by Meals on Wheels equals less money being spent on premature admission to acute hospital or residential care.
Since its introduction, the yourHealth campaign has seen Government ministers including; Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Health Minister Nicola Roxon and Minister for Ageing Justine Elliot, touring the hospital circuit like rock stars on the Big Day Out tour. From Melbourne to Lismore the health heavyweights have been asking you your opinion on what should happen next.
A visit to the yourHealth website reveals several points being targeted by the Government with regards to aged care, these reforms appear under headings such as; “More Choice for Consumers”, “Making the System Work Better” and “Improving Care Through Modern Technology”.
These highfalutin titles represent a worrying direction for reforms. Essentially these new measures mean more aged care places to choose from, placing a cap on the number of people receiving subsidies and use of modern technology to make the lines of communication more efficient between carers and their patients.
Perhaps a better strategy would include the following.
Less elderly patients being admitted to aged care through a bolstering of cheap established community services like Meals on Wheels, this approach would help ease the problems facing the government’s first two proposals. And in place of updated communication through modern technology, why not improve communication by funding and employing more full and part time staff to service the community through community based service organisations.
As it stands NSW Meals on Wheels receives an estimated $20 million per year from the Home and Community Care (HACC) programme, a cost shared between the Commonwealth and State Governments. This equates to a little more than $1000 per year, per client for the NSW Meals on Wheels service, nothing more than a measly stipend.
With billions of dollars expected to be thrown into new health reforms, Meals on Wheels represents a cost effective solution to many of the problems facing Australians and aged care.
If effective preventative organisations go belly up we are likely to see increasing problems such as bed shortages and lack of care emerge in the health system.
When asked about where he thought the new reforms were heading, and where Meals on Wheels might fit within the new structure, Mcdonald revealed that he believes the new health environment , “Is likely to be far more supportive of expenditures on preventative health care.”
Let’s hope that Mr MacDonald is right and the Rudd Government does not overlook Meals on Wheels, which with a small amount of funding can make a huge difference in supporting the crippled health and aged care systems.


Liam Kinkead is a freelance journalist currently completing his Masters of Media Practice at the University of Sydney.




  1. adambrandin

    September 21, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Prevention Best Medicine

    Great piece of writing Liam. All the investigation done on this points towards the fact that investment in preventative medicine has better economic and social outcomes than reactive investment in "problem areas". Meals on Wheels is a great example of this.

    • mortormow

      October 18, 2009 at 1:06 am

      Really good article

      This article was very well written. I could not have said it better, keep up the good work for Meals on Wheels.

  2. GabeJames

    October 14, 2009 at 12:00 am


    Hi Liam, thank you for this good insight.

    The challenge with your proposal is that governments, and in particular health departments, want to measure their interventions. In health terms this means any funding is ideally linked to some kind of health economics study of impact.

    Unfortunately we have few people researching the positive economic impact of common sense community based efforts whereas many companies and large organizations can afford to create detailed proposals of the economic impact of their plans – e.g. new aged care facilities will reduce hospitalizations and save the government X dollars etc.

    My grandmother spent her last 15 years of life working tirelessly for meals on wheels – I know how invaluable her efforts would have been to many elderly. Unfortunately, it was unmeasurable!

    My hope is that Global Access Partners, and related groups, will be able to drive overlapping discussions about broader reform of economics measures politicians use and how we plan our health system. Until then, perhaps you can find a health economist to look at meals on wheels? I’d be happy to help!


    • alison gordon

      October 19, 2009 at 2:41 am

      thanks for you comments Gabe

      As you are aware, Global Access Partners is committed to driving practical outcomes of national significance, not just in the health sector, but across many other important facets of our society.

      The GAP/ACHR Congress on Australia’s Health will indeed look at one of many concerns, as you have outlined above, which is how the broader health system is managed, funded and planned for future demand.

      This is one of many GAP health initiatives which aims to make some positive change and influence policy. Thanks for your keen interest!

  3. foggy


    March 22, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    Awareness drive for prevention

    When one ages,does it need a painful experience, that tells you to slow down, and make uncomplicated moves and actions-as in picking up things, reaching for, and turning and twisting around.also does one have to undergo several experiences with medicines to finally come to the conclusion that you have grown allergic to a food substance which you used to enjoy without care.such life changes would be part of an awareness plan which prepares an individual for healthy ageing.meals on wheels is an excellent idea.and thought must also be given to providing special diets and hypo ahllergenic food substances should be easily available and affordable.