Ill health hotspots highlight need for strong local health services

The dozens of “hotspots” of avoidable ill health in Australia identified in a new report highlight the need for effective local health services, the Consumers Health Forum said today.
“The Grattan Institute’s report shows that Australia’s health services too often fail to match the promise of what is meant to be a universal health system,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said.

“The report, Perils of place: identifying hotspots of health inequalities, shows 63 localities in Victoria and Queensland have had potentially preventable hospitalisation rates at least 50 per cent higher than the state average over the past decade.

“The report says this is unacceptable place-based inequality and a warning sign of system failure. We agree.

“What the report also shows is that potentially preventable hospitalisations are widely spread, are not necessarily linked to lower socio-economic areas and can involve concentrations of quite different diseases.

“The trouble is that in Australia universal health care does not guarantee equal opportunity to be healthy. That is most graphically shown in the yawning gap in health status between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

“The Grattan report indicates there will be no single solution and that driving forces will be different in each place.

“We need targeted solutions specifically to address health inequalities. The findings of this study would suggest that the Primary Health Networks should be resourced to identify and work with affected communities to develop strategies to reduce the hospital admission rates.

“CHF supports the report’s recommendations that tailored preventative interventions be piloted in selected locations. This would further consolidate the roles of PHNs as system improvers with capacity to deliver direct savings by working to introduce appropriately targeted and innovate chronic disease management and self-management services to both address health inequalities and reduce potentially preventable hospitalisations in priority places”

“In an era where waste and cost effectiveness in health care spending is becoming a crucial issue, these types of PHN-led initiatives are firmly in the consumers’ interest as well as the taxpayers’”

PHNs have already been given the job of commissioning local mental health services, with some also funded to run stepped-care trials and to serve as suicide prevention demonstration hubs. If PHS are to meet consumer needs and solve some of the regional variation in health inequalities attributable to chronic diseases, they need the same mandate and funding in this area”

“Place-based disease prevalence requires place-based responses,” Ms Wells said.


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