The Council of Australian Government’s (COAG) Reform Council has released its fourth report on the National Healthcare Agreement, concluding that Australians are living longer, smoking less and enjoying better health than ever before.

In releasing COAG’s report, Chairman John Brumby  said that the country has maintained one of the highest life expectancy’s, while our rates of low birthweight and infant mortality are better than OECD averages.

"Overall, there are some very encouraging results which show that the Commonwealth and the States are working well together to provide a strong healthcare system," Mr Brumby said.

The Chairman said that one of the highlights from the report was the continued drop in smoking rates around the country, reported at 16.5% in 2010–11.

"Smoking-related diseases and deaths put a huge strain on our health system, so the continued drop in daily smoking rates is welcome," Mr Brumby said.

The OECD said that Australia has seen ‘remarkable progress’ in reducing tobacco consumption in the last two decades, but the council notes that the stark difference in smoking rates depending on geographic location or socio-economic status is of concern.

The council’s report found that one in three people in the most disadvantaged areas outside major cities smoke, compared to one in five in the most disadvantaged areas within major cities, and one in ten people living in better off areas in major cities.

The report warned that governments also need to do more to tackle obesity with a staggering 63% of Australians either overweight or obese in 2011–12. This is up two percentage points since 2007–08.

"It’s concerning to see that so many Australians are overweight or obese but the fact that the situation is getting worse suggests that it needs urgent attention from our governments to prevent flow-on effects across the system," Mr Brumby said.

The full report can be found here