A new health prevention champion

The Government has given the top job in its new preventive health agency to a seasoned consumer advocate with a local and international record of achievement.

Above: Louise Sylvan

By Keryn Curtis

Seasoned consumer advocate and Productivity Commissioner, Louise Sylvan, has been appointed as the first permanent chief executive officer of the Australian National Preventive Health Agency (ANPHA), the new Commonwealth government agency established on 1 January 2011.

Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler announced the appointment today, saying it would be a boost to Australia’s focus on preventing illness and promoting better health and wellbeing.

Ms Sylvan has been a Commissioner with the Productivity Commission since August 2008.  She was appointed to that role as a member with expertise in consumer affairs having previously been deputy chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, chief executive of the Australian Consumers’ Association (Choice) and President of Consumers International

Ms Sylvan has served internationally on the OECD Consumer Policy Committee and nationally on the federal government’s Expert Group in Electronic Commerce and the Australian Statistics Advisory Council to the ABS. She is Deputy President of the Council of the Medical Foundation of the University of Sydney, and on the Board of the Diplomacy Training Program established by The Hon Jose Ramos Horta. 

Prior memberships included six years on the Australian Prime Minister’s Economic Planning Advisory Council and the Self-Regulation Task Force in 1999–2000.

Mr Butler said Ms Sylvan is well known for her work in enhancing consumer rights in a range of areas such as health, food safety, and financial services as well as in competition and consumer policy.  He said she would bring valuable private and public sector experience, spanning policy development, stakeholder engagement and service delivery activities to her new role. 

COTA CEO, Ian Yates, said he welcomed the appointment of Ms Sylvan to the ANPHA.

“The Australian National Preventive Health Agency is a really important initiative and we’re very hopeful that it will start to give proper priority to health promotion and illness protection for older people, which has tended to be forgotten and not given the same priority in ‘whole of life’ health programs.  

“Ageism is so engrained in our society that we don’t think about health promotion for older people but these kinds of strategies can contribute substantially to a person’s quality of life and also save a lot of money.

 “Healthy people use less medicines, go to hospital less and use fewer care services. It is never too late to take a preventive approach and a health promotion approach,” Mr Yates said.

Mr Yates said it had been difficult to attract the resources needed to support health education and promotion programs for older people.

“In hundreds of gyms all around the country there are programs that provide strength training for older people but it has been hard to get significant resources for them.  Having someone like Louise with a consumer background and a non-medical background is very encouraging. 

“It’s also encouraging that Minister Butler has been talking about preventive programs aimed at senior in lots of forums recently.  

“We’re looking forward to meeting with Louise and explaining our roles and talking about the enormous opportunities for building on a positive attitude to ageing,” Mr Yates said.


The Australian National Preventive Health Agency is an independent statutory authority created to strengthen Australia’s investment and infrastructure in preventive health.  The establishment of such an agency was a recommendation of the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission’s report in 2009.

Minister Butler said the ANPHA’s role was to lead the fight against preventable diseases through preventive health initiatives targeting obesity and alcohol, tobacco and other substance abuse. 

“There is a significant amount of evidence which shows that well planned prevention programs are effective in enhancing both the quality and length of people’s lives,” Mr Butler said. 

The Minister said the Gillard Government’s investments in preventive health – such as increasing the tobacco excise, supporting campaigns like Measure Up, and the Health Communities Initiative, including health eating, activity and lifestyle programs, community vegetable gardens, walking and bike tracks – are already making a difference. 

“We also know that the impact of chronic disease on the economy and health expenditure is significant.  Total expenditure on health by all levels of government, the private sector and individuals, accounts for nearly 10 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product.  The preventive health agency can make an important contribution to the future sustainability of our healthcare system.” 

Ms Sylvan will formally commence in the role in late September. She has been appointed CEO of ANPHA for a period of five years. 

Tags: ageing, ageism, anpha, australian-national-preventive-health-agency, consumer-affairs, cota, ian-yates, louise-sylvan, mark-butler,

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