Our hearts and minds - what would it take for Australia to become the healthiest country in the world?
Objective: To highlight recent reductions in mortality rates in Australia and identify conditions and population groups with the greatest potential for further reduction in mortality rates.Design: International benchmarking and intranational comparisons of mortality rates were used to identify areas with the greatest potential for improvement.Results: Latest data from Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries confirm that, while Japans death rates remain the lowest in the world, Australias are decreasing rapidly and we now rival Switzerland for second overall ranking. When the contributions of specific conditions are compared, the areas with the greatest potential for reductions are circulatory diseases (especially ischaemic heart disease); suicide; injury and violence; smoking-related conditions; and cancers amenable to prevention/early detection. Intranational comparisons show considerable scope for reduction in inequalities, especially those between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians, between males and females, and between low and high socioeconomic groups. These conditions and inequalities are highly interrelated, as differentials in health status are often mediated through broader societal inequalities.Conclusions: Australia should aim to become the country with the lowest mortality rate in the world. This could realistically be achieved by benchmarking performance nationally and internationally, applying current knowledge and available interventions, matching policies with funding, and implementing systemic national programs and activities to promote health and prevent illth.