A new report has been released by the Menzies Centre for Health Governance at the ANU School of Regulation and Global Governance, examining the health equity implications of the 156 policy measures that were introduced by the Australian Federal and State/Territory governments in response to the pandemic.

Key messages include:

  • A number of positive measures were introduced to address employment, household income, and standard of living. These could go along way to keeping people well and reducing health inequities. They must however not return to conditions that will keep people in poverty. Policies must ensure a decent standard of living and fair working conditions as we move forward.
  • To prevent an accumulation of disadvantage and health inequities throughout the life course, the temporary supports for childcare should continue and enable access to free childcare for, at the very least, socially disadvantaged households.
  • COVID-19 has initiated an enormous intergenerational transfer of debt. The health consequences will be felt for decades, possibly generations. But austerity cannot be the policy response going forward. Long-term investment is vital across the conditions of daily living. Action on the structural drivers of health inequity is essential.
  • ‘Bouncing back better’ from COVID-19 could see a healthier, more equitable and sustainable Australia if political leaders choose to use this unfortunate event to drive positive societal change. We cannot have deregulations in social, health and environment sectors in order to “kickstart the economy”, nor the dominance of certain gender, economic and political lenses in the recovery governance processes. Governing going forward requires a new social compact, supported by a national whole of government health equity strategy.

The ‘Australian COVID-19 policy responses: Good for health equity or a missed opportunity?’ report was authored by Menzies Centre for Health Governance experts, namely Professor Sharon Friel, Sharni Goldman, Belinda Townsend, Ashley Schram.

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