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The water industry’s role in health and wellbeing
The water industry has always had a strong focus on health and wellbeing, but we have few effective ways to measure our contribution in this area. The industry made a large contribution to health and wellbeing around 100 years ago, when sewers and reticulated water systems were first constructed. However, the impact that the water industry’s day-to-day decisions have on health and wellbeing in 2017 remains unclear.
The public health industry measures health and wellbeing in life expectancy and disability-free life years. By measuring these figures across Victoria, we can see a seven-year difference in life expectancy between the most- and least-privileged municipalities and a seventeen-year difference in disability-free life years. This translates into an economic burden to Victoria of between $3 billion and $5 billion a year.
In addition to these large social and economic impacts, public health experts estimate that approximately 1,500 deaths occurring in Victoria each year are avoidable. This is a catastrophic public health crisis that warrants urgent action from us all. When relative populations are considered, the magnitude is like the crisis Victoria faced in the 1890s, when the state suffered 400 deaths a year from typhoid – a serious public health issue that was also recognised as avoidable.
In the 1890s the water industry’s role was clear – construct sewers. But today, our role is much less obvious.
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