For more than 160 years, local government has made a substantial contribution to the health of the nation.
In its 2008 study into local government's revenue raising capacity, the Productivity Commission found that the majority of local government spending was not exclusively in the areas of 'property-related services and roads' but also in the areas of 'recreation, health and welfare services.'
While local government health services differ between states and between councils, reflecting their different local priorities and their resourcing capacity, many councils provide a range of direct health services to their community members. Councils also provide a number of services that are generally not considered to be ‘health services' but deliver clear and demonstrable health benefits to the community. For example, council 'health' services include, but are not limited to: municipal waste services; food inspection; (in some states) the provision of maternal and child health centres; immunisations; programs run by councils to encourage community health and fitness, such as nutrition awareness programs, and healthy weight loss programs; the establishment and/or maintenance of sports and recreation facilities, bicycle paths, and walking tracks; and traffic calming measures.
From a local government perspective, health services, health promotion and preventative health policies should not be seen in isolation; effective health policy and programs at the local level must be integrated.
Much of ALGA's work in the health area is focused on working with the other levels of government, in particular the Australian Government. However, many of the services are dealt with in silos rather than across the whole-of-government. As a result, ALGA works on waste issues through the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC); food inspection through the Australian and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council (ANZFRMC); the Healthy Communities Initiative through the Department of Health and Ageing; traffic calming measures through Australian Transport Council and road safety agencies in each state and territory; and immunisations and maternal and child health are dealt with through the Council of Australian Governments and the associated health reform agenda.
Within the health agenda, ageing and older Australians is also an important focus for local councils. You can learn more about local government’s work in this area on the Ageing and Older Australians webpage.