4-4-90: The key to unlocking better health

29 November 2018

Jayson Forrest

Jayson Forrest is the managing editor of Money & Life Magazine.

There are four lifestyle behaviours that directly contribute to four diseases that account for 90 per cent of deaths in Australia.

4-4-90 – these are three sets of numbers that go to the core of helping Australians live longer and healthier lives, according to AIA chief executive officer of Australia and New Zealand, Damien Mu.

“There are four lifestyle behaviours that directly contribute to four diseases that account for 90 per cent of deaths in Australia. So, by better understanding these four factors and the affect they have on our health, we can assist more Australians to enjoy a better quality of life,” Mu said.

Speaking at the recent AIA Vitality 4490 Summit, Mu identified the four main risk factors as being: physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, smoking, and excessive consumption of alcohol. Mu said these four risk factors were the main contributors to Australia’s top four diseases: cancer, respiratory illness, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  

“These four risk factors lead to these four diseases, which are responsible for 90 per cent of deaths in Australia. By encouraging our clients to improve their diet and nutritional intake, while also becoming more active in what they do, we can dramatically improve the overall fitness, mental health and wellbeing of Australians,” he said.

 It was a view supported by Professor Ian Hickie – Co-director, Health and Policy at The University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre. Hickie confirmed that the biggest cause of disability in Australia was mental health, with mental health issues costing the Australian economy $12.8 billion annually.

Hickie said addressing mental health and wellbeing issues were the biggest challenges facing society, with changes to how we view and deal with these issues needing to be spearheaded by business, private enterprise and the wider community.

“We need to think of this as being the ‘Uberisation’ of mental health care,” Professor Hickie said. “We can’t rely on government to adequately address mental health. Instead, as a society, we need to change our attitudes and behaviour towards mental health and wellbeing. That means greater involvement in the workplace and within the wider community.”

Woolworths General Manager – Group Safety, Health and Wellbeing, Kevin Figueiredo agreed, saying that with one in four people likely to suffer a mental illness in Australia, “we’ve stopped talking about statistics in the workplace”.

“Instead, we’re shifting the language and behaviour we use in the workplace. It’s okay not to be okay,” he said.

According to Figueiredo, Woolworths is doing this in three ways:

  1. Encouraging all employees to show they genuinely care about their colleagues;
  2. Encouraging all employees to ask their colleagues how they are feeling; and
  3. Offer professional help to those employees who need it.


“These three steps are all about humanising the workplace and the results to date have been overwhelmingly successful.”

Alisa Caplin – dual winter Olympic medallist and high performance consultant – agreed, saying that workplaces needed to “respect the humanity” of people.

“People want to be valued and want to be heard,” she said. “We need to reconsider our workplace environments. The autocratic approach in the workplace of yesterday and even today, is not the type of workplace environment that the next generation will tolerate.”

Caplin believed the key to improving the health of all Australians begins with addressing their mental and emotional wellbeing in the workplace.

“We need to share our stories and accept that it’s okay to have normal, real conversations about how we’re feeling in the workplace,” Caplin said. “And fundamental to this is removing the barriers that negatively affect the culture of a business.”