The AMA has written to Federal MPs and Senators urging them to support a number of key policy measures to reduce preventable health problems linked to excessive alcohol use, obesity and smoking.

The AMA has taken this step in anticipation of the blueprint for national prevention that the National Preventative Health Taskforce will soon provide to Health Minister Nicola Roxon.

"A growing number of Australians are at high risk of serious diseases and premature death due to excessive alcohol consumption, excess weight and smoking," AMA Federal Vice President, Dr Steven Hambleton, said.

"Doctors play a big role in helping people avoid these risks, and this role could be strengthened if the right supports are put in place by governments.

"For example, patients who want to address alcohol, smoking or weight problems should be able to receive a Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) rebate for brief preventative health follow-ups provided by practice nurses on behalf of a patient's doctor.

"There could also be an MBS rebate for patients to take part in group preventative health and education sessions provided by medical practices. MBS rebates should recognise the time doctors spend on preventative healthcare during consultations with patients."

Dr Hambleton said it is crucial a National Preventative Health Strategy puts the right preventative supports in place for doctors, and gives priority to implementing effective, evidence-based prevention measures, such as

- Restricting the targeted marketing of alcohol to adolescents and teenagers
- Prohibiting the advertising of energy-dense and nutrient poor food products and beverages to children, especially during children's television viewing times
- Mandating simple and informative nutritional labelling on food products
- Increasing taxation on tobacco products by 5% each year and banning the sale of duty-free tobacco products
- Banning all forms of tobacco promotion and mandating plain packaging of all tobacco products.

The AMA Issues Brief "Preventing Obesity, Smoking and Excess Alcohol Use: A Major Health Challenge for the Coming Decade" can be found at:

The AMA's new 2009 Position Statement on Alcohol Consumption and Alcohol Related Harms can also be found at:

Australian Medical Association

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