Primary Health Care Reform in Australia - Report to Support Australia’s First National Primary Health Care Strategy
Scope of primary health care for the Report and Draft Strategy
A number of submissions proposed that the National Primary Health Care Strategy needed to encompass a broad definition of comprehensive primary health care including consideration of the social determinants of health.
Whilst recognising the importance of the social determinants of health, the Draft Strategy does not attempt to actively address the range of non-health issues which impact on health outcomes and inequalities. At the same time, the Social Inclusion Principles identified as part of the Social Inclusion Agenda adopted by the Australian Government, are an important aspect in guiding this reform. The Australian Government’s Women’s and Men’s Health policies are also considering these broader issues.
The Draft Strategy that accompanies this Report does, however, recognise and adopt key characteristics of a people-centred primary health care model including a strong focus on addressing inequities in access to health services; a focus on disease prevention rather than just the episodic treatment of illness; and a greater use of population health approaches including being responsive to the needs of local communities.
The focus of this Report is primarily on services delivered by GPs, nurses, allied health providers, Aboriginal health practitioners, and pharmacists. In addition, primary health care is increasingly being seen as all health care services provided outside the hospital, with the linkages between these health professionals and the services provided by specialists and consultant physicians also being an important consideration.
While dental health is an important part of primary health care, issues around access to dental services are being considered through other forums and are not covered by this Report. Similarly, maternity services are not considered in detail in this Report and will be addressed through the forthcoming development of the National Maternity Services Plan.
In many areas involving primary health care, there are existing processes for the planning, delivery and governance of health care services where the National Primary Health Care Strategy could serve as an overarching framework with which these areas can integrate and link, for example the Fourth National Mental Health Plan and the Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement, both of which are currently being developed. The interface between primary health care services and aged care services is also significant.
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