2011 Primary Health Care Research Conference - “Inspirations, Collaborations, Solutions” - Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, South Bank, Brisbane
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13 July 2011
Thank you very much, Auntie Valda, for your welcome to country.
I too would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to their elders, both past and present.
Can I also acknowledge:
A/Professor Ellen McIntyre (Director of the Primary Health Care Research and Information Service) and the two keynote speakers,
Dr Dame Claire Bertschinger; and
Professor Kim Bennell
Thanks very much for the invitation to address you at today’s conference. It’s wonderful to see so many from the community of practitioner and researchers interacting and sharing knowledge n the field of primary health care.
I’m really pleased to be here with you today, at what is both a very exciting and challenging time for the primary health sector.
Exciting, because the Australian Government is building a National Health and Hospitals Network which involves taking full funding and policy responsibility for primary health care services in Australia.
It’s also a very challenging time – as you would know, our health care system is being challenged by a combination of pressures including the growing burden of chronic disease, an ageing population, workforce shortages, and unacceptable inequities in health outcomes and access to services.
Frankly, primary health care in Australia has tended to operate as a disparate set of services, rather than an integrated service system. It has been difficult for primary health care to respond effectively to changing pressures (such as demographic change, changes in the burden of disease, emerging technologies and changing clinical practice), and to coordinate within and across the various elements of the broader health system to meet the needs of an individual patient.
While it’s important that we acknowledge these challenges, I also stand here today to reaffirm the Government’s commitment to improve our primary health care system. Underpinning our commitment is the National Primary Health Care Strategy which represents the first comprehensive national policy statement for primary health care in Australia, and provides the platform for a stronger and more efficient primary health care system that we need into the future.
The strategy itself identifies the 4 key priority areas where change is most needed to set up the system of the future. The 4 key priority areas for change are:
- Improving access and reducing equity
- Better management of chronic conditions
- Increasing the focus on prevention
- Improving quality, safety, performance and accountability.
Ensuring that all Australians can access health care that is suitable for their particular needs and circumstances at the time they need it, is one of the major challenges facing our current primary health care system. It’s also what drives some of the health reforms we’ve undertaken, including:
Medicare Locals are a fundamentally important part of our primary care strategy. These organisations, operating at local and regional level, are being set up to help coordinate and integrate services, address service gaps in local areas and regions, and help bring GPs and other health professionals together. From this month, the first 19 Medicare Locals have received funding from the Government to help patients and professionals navigate our complex system more easily. People with mental health and aged care needs will be better served by these organisations. The first Medicare Locals started operating 1 July and will have a key role in helping to make it easier for Australians to see and contact a doctor.
The first of July also signalled the commencement of our after hours GP service, For the first time, people will be able to pick up the phone and talk to a nurse or GP to get advice and, if needed, referred to their nearest open after-hours service
As you know, this year’s Budget included a comprehensive mental health reform package. The budget funds a range of innovative measures for mental health primary care, including –
- National coverage of the primary mental health service for young Australians – headspace
- Doubling the funding to GP Divisions and Medicare Locals under the Access to Allied Psychology Services or ATAPS program – targeting low SES and Indigenous communities and young children in particular
- A comprehensive e-mental health strategy to buttress the face to face primary sector
- A revolutionary approach to the co-ordination of clinical and non-clinical services for the most severely unwell
- And much more
But, of course, reform can’t happen without the research and the evidence base to back up what works.
Improvements in patient and community health outcomes are achieved through better practice and relevant policies, which often have their genesis in research findings and evidence.
As you know, following the budget I announced a review into Health and Medical Research. I am currently consulting on the Terms of Reference for the review, and plan to announce the final ToRs by the end of July.
The draft ToRs are available on the department web site, and you can submit comments through the list of peak organisations there.
It’s been some time since the last review into medical research – the Wills Review. That review, undertaken in 1999, resulted in significant increases in funding over ten years, and has led to the record levels of investment we see today. But more than that, it set out a vision for medical research over a ten-year period. We think it’s time to undertake that kind of thinking again.
This is a bigger agenda than the amount of money the Government is investing in research. The research landscape is changing and our investment should reflect this changed landscape, what the research sector sees as important, as well as the community. For one thing, the burden of disease has altered significantly. Chronic disease and mental health have replaced acute infectious diseases and acute vascular events as the leading cause of morbidity and mortality.
I’m very excited about this review and its potential to chart a clear path for the next 10 years or so for Australian research and encourage you to follow it closely.
But, of course, we already have a number of specific research strategies in place – not least in primary care.
Many of you here today would be familiar with the Primary Health Care Research, Evaluation and Development (PHCRED) Strategy 2010-2014 which plays an important role in the provision of evidence to inform policy development and supporting the implementation of the primary health care reforms.
The next phase of the PHCRED Strategy will;
- continue to build capacity in the primary health care research sector
- add to the body of knowledge and evidence of primary health care research and
- actively promulgate primary health care research to engender effective knowledge exchange, and improve clinical practice and patient outcomes.
This network will better connect primary health care researchers and offer a more sustainable and effective means of collaboration between researchers across Australia and internationally than current arrangements.
The aims of the CRE program include:
- the generation of high quality primary health care research that informs policy and practice, leading to improved primary health care services and health outcomes for the Australian community
- multi-disciplinary collaboration across the Australian primary health care research community
- build Australian primary health care research capacity through career development of research leaders and new researchers.
- four post-doctorate fellowships of minimum twelve months’ duration
- two PhD candidates engaged in research projects
- four scholarships or bursaries of a minimum six months’ duration for pre-higher degree individuals to engage in CRE research activities or to assist a senior researcher in a CRE project.
Each funded CRE will receive a minimum of $2.5 million over four years.
In recognition of the particular circumstances involved with conducting research in rural and remote Australia, additional funding of up to $500,000 over four years will be provided to CREs with a core research focus on rural and remote primary health care. The CRE will be required to expend at least $250,000 on research conducted in a physically remote environment, such as support for rurally-based researchers.
In a demonstration of the success of this program, I’m told that one of the current three CREs is conducting research on: accessible and equitable primary health care service provision in rural and remote Australia. This CRE includes a collaboration of university departments in rural health in Moe, Alice Springs and Broken Hill.
Launch of Snapshot of Australian primary health care research 2011
I took great pleasure in launching the 2009 Snapshot of Australian primary health care researchat the opening of the 2009 General Practice & Primary Health Care Research Conference.
This 2011 Snapshot publication builds on the success of previous issues and showcases examples of Australian primary health care research produced under the PHCRED Strategy.
The Snapshot of Australian Primary Health Care Research has been published since 2008. This is the fourth printed edition. Over the last two editions the basis for inclusion of articles in the publication has been more closely linked to the health reform agenda and the National Primary Health Care Strategy.
As Associate Professor Ellen McIntyre has advised in the snapshot foreword “The Australian Government recognises that primary health care research plays a vital role in generating the evidence base for best practice”.
Helping people to have access to health care when and where they need it is a priority for national health reform. Best practice is critical to the success and sustainability of our primary health care system for the immediate and emerging needs of communities.
The eleven research projects featured in this year’s snapshot publication showcase some of the exceptional research conducted under the strategy
- It features projects on important issues such as how to optimise access to best practice in primary health care
- It analyses pharmacist recommendations in aged care and studies the feasibility and impact of cardiovascular absolute risk assessment in general practice
- It documents the health service experience of refugee and asylum seekers and of culturally and linguistically diverse populations
- Other projects make important observations on issues such as effective change management in ambulatory care service, building research capacity in allied health, and improving quality through clinical governance in primary care.
It also gives me great pleasure to declare this conference open and reiterate that the Australian Government really values the significant work that you are doing.
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