Hundreds of thousands of Australians are suffering from ill health because health reforms implemented in recent years aren't having an impact on their lives. Catholic Health Australia CEO Martin Laverty says it's time for political parties to get serious about improving the health of all Australians.
Catholic Health Australia (CHA) today released its Health Blueprint, which outlines six key priorities for how ongoing health reform can be effective and reach those seemingly untouched by previous reforms.
The six priorities are:
• Address the social determinants of health in order to reduce the gap in health outcomes between the most and least disadvantaged;
• Increased focus on preventative health and health promotion;
• Strengthening primary and community care;
• Improved integration and transition – from silos to a system;
• Facilitate consumer engagement, empowerment and resourcing;
• Reform health system governance.
"Catholic Health Australia represents hospitals and aged care services, but many of the reforms our Blueprint calls for fall outside the hospital system," Mr Laverty explained. "We realise that while hospitals are a pivotal part of any health system, they're not the places where meaningful reform will take place to improve the health of Australians.
"Our members believe we need to do much more to reduce the need for people to require hospital treatment in the first place, and addressing the social determinants of health provides the critical first step in that long-term process."
Mr Laverty said promoting healthy lifestyles – and discouraging unhealthy choices – again falls outside the traditional health care delivery paradigm, but have been proven effective, despite very little investment.
"Less than 2 per cent of the Commonwealth health budget is spent on preventative health, and two-thirds of that is spent on valuable immunisation and vaccination programs, but one is left to wonder how great the impact of health promotion programs could be if they received higher levels of funding," he said.
"There is also a great need to empower health consumers with health literacy programs, starting in our school systems, so people feel they have a better understanding of how they can take ownership of their health and apply healthy principles to their everyday lives."
Mr Laverty said CHA and its members will use the Health Blueprint as a yardstick against which to measure the policies that political parties will campaign on ahead of September's election.
"Australians often cite health as one of their main concerns when asked what their priorities will be when deciding who to vote for," he explained. "This Blueprint and the six priorities contained in it will allow us to analyse parties' platforms and determine whether they are actually serious about delivering meaning health reforms that will have a real impact on the health of all Australians. Will they be up to the task?"