What a difference two years makes. It’s been that long since the last release of this report and during that time we have felt the direct impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the course of 2021 over 92% of adult Queenslanders were vaccinated against COVID-19, then during 2022 the virus spread though the vaccinated Queensland population.
The pandemic has caused distress for some and disruption for all Queenslanders. Thankfully, because of the high rate of vaccination, our health system has withstood the challenge. The mortality from COVID-19 in Queensland has been very low by global standards.
I want to thank Queenslanders for working to take the necessary steps to protect everyone’s health, especially our community’s most vulnerable. Our combined efforts protected Queensland from the devastating COVID-19 impacts seen in other countries.
The year 2022 was an extraordinary year for communicable diseases in Queensland. In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a Public Health Emergency of International Concern declared for mpox (Monkeypox) and a Communicable Diseases Incident of National Significance for Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV). Each time Queenslanders have demonstrated their ability to respond effectively. We can expect more events such as these into the future as the global population continues to rise and the global climate continues to change.
This time in our history marks a transition. We have transitioned out of the acute phase of the pandemic, our borders have opened, and we are living with COVID-19. It is time to focus again beyond the pandemic. What do we know about the health of Queenslanders?
Queenslanders are living longer. Queensland male life expectancy at birth reached 80.9 years in 2019–2021, increasing from 76.9 in two decades (1999–2001). Female life expectancy also increased to 85.1 from 82.3 years during the same period.
This is among the highest life expectancy in the world.
Male babies born in 2019–2021 are expected to live 4.0 years longer and female babies 2.8 years longer than those born in 1999–2001.
But with Queenslanders living longer comes an increase in the burden of chronic disease, particularly in remote and disadvantaged populations. On top of this increased burden, there has been a substantial increase in the standardised hospitalisation rate. These factors are placing increasing strain on both primary care and hospital sectors. For First Nations peoples the news has been mixed. Secondary school completion rates have risen significantly. Standardised death rates from ischaemic heart disease and diabetes have fallen. But the rate of suicide in First Nations peoples in Queensland continues to rise. The health of First Nations peoples must remain a central focus for all of us.
Queenslanders continue to quit smoking. But a new lifestyle-related public health threat has emerged suddenly—vaping. There is an urgent need to curtail this threat, with an immediate focus on the illegal sale of nicotine-containing products. We must not repeat the mistakes made a century ago when the first of several generations became addicted to tobacco.
After 17 years and 8 releases, this 9th Chief Health Officer report is also a transition. It remains a comprehensive report on the health status of Queenslanders but now includes more in-depth feature articles. It emphasises trends—so that we can better appreciate where we’ve been and the directions we are headed. It takes a comprehensive look at equity in health outcomes across Queensland’s regions. It also provides a designated section for groups that may be experiencing health inequity. This currently includes First Nations peoples and regional Queenslanders but will grow over time to include other populations.
The best of the previous reports was retained and as a digital-first product it provides timely and in-depth reporting on priority health topics. I’ve summarised my views on the pandemic’s lessons in Our Times, including examples of past and potentially future successes, from both communicable and chronic diseases and the risk factors that increase susceptibility to both.
Dr John Gerrard BSc (Med) MB BS (Syd) MSc (Microbiology) DLSHTM DTM&H (Lon) FRACP
Chief Health Officer, Queensland