Active Lives South Australia health economic analysis: an evidence base for the potential of health promotion strategies supporting physical activity guidelines to reduce public health costs while improving wellbeing

Publication Name

Journal of Public Health (Germany)


Aim: The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened individual and population wellbeing and strategies to jointly address these challenges within budget constraints are required. The aim of our research is to analyse evidence from the Active Lives South Australia study to consider the potential of physical activity (PA) health promotion strategies to be health-system cost saving while addressing wellbeing challenges. Methods: The Active Lives South Australia study compares adult populations who meet and do not meet physical activity (PA) guidelines (150+ minutes of weekly physical activity) with respect to their subjective wellbeing and health care utilisation. Subject and results: Adults who met PA guidelines had better wellbeing across all aspects with and without adjustment for age, sex and income covariates. Analysis showed significant associations between meeting guidelines and lower probabilities of visiting and utilisation of GPs, specialist doctors, other health professionals, hospital inpatient admissions, outpatient clinic and emergency department visits, and an overall A$1760 lower cost per person annually. Controlling for age, sex and income, health expenditure for adults who met PA guidelines was significantly lower by A$1393 per person annually. That translated to A$804 million potential annual SA health system cost saving by shifting all adults to meeting PA guidelines. Conclusion: There is significant potential for effective health promotion strategies to be net cost saving while addressing wellbeing challenges of COVID-19 recovery where they can shift target populations from not meeting to meeting PA guidelines.

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