Making primary health care work: New research

Health reform needs to be championed by health leaders, responsive to community needs and securely funded, to be sustained and benefit the health of Australians according to a new research published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

The research reports the results of the first work program of the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute (APHCRI) at ANU. It examines the sustainability of five regional primary health care programs in terms of economic, political, institutional, financial, client, and workforce factors.

APHCRI's Deputy Director, Dr Beverly Sibthorpe, who co-ordinated the work, said the focus on sustainability was important in a world where multiple local and national health reform strategies were being implemented.

"There are many initiatives aimed at improving primary health care services for patients, but without acknowledgement of key ingredients to keep those programs going - like established funding and State and Federal organisations working together - they could be lost," she said.

Five programs around Australia were examined. The will and commitment of people running the programs was an important factor, Dr Sibthorpe said.
The RAISE Wellbeing program in Port Augusta brought various Aboriginal health services and mainstream mental health groups together to tackle shortcomings in Aboriginal mental health services.

Links formed between the organisations and the development of mutual respect between mental health workers and Aboriginal health workers were key to its success.

Other groups, including the Sharing Health Care Initiative in Katherine, which looked at ways to manage chronic disease through self-care and education in remote Australia, identified leadership, champions of the program and financial sustainability beyond pilots as important drivers.

Services for other marginalised communities in Australia were included in the research. South Australia's Care and

Contact: Frith Rayner
Research Australia

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