Good health and well-being for all Australians
An equitable, efficient, universal, high quality, person-centred health care system.
- Policies, programs and services based on evidence
- A social determinants of health perspective
- Ongoing and meaningful community engagement
- A health system based on a strong primary health care sector
- A skilled and flexible health workforce used to its greatest potential.
- A focus on keeping people well as well as addressing ill-health
AHCRA believes that every individual should be supported to achieve his/her potential, regardless of ethnicity or location. Inequalities in the social determinants of health drive inequality in health and limit that potential. The inequalities come from not only direct access to health care but also inequalities relating to all the other social determinants such as education, employment and social engagement.
Many current Federal Government policies appear firmly focused on reducing Federal expenditure across the health, welfare, and education sectors. The impact is inevitably greatest on those who are most dependent on government expenditure to provide those services.
Some Federal Government policies are directed at improving efficiencies in spending but the stated emphasis is to direct the savings towards reducing overall government spending rather than towards spending more effectively.
By ensuring all areas of our health system promote equitable outcomes, we will maximise the health of our population and support all Australians to fulfil their potential.
Efficiency is an important goal as it helps obtain the greatest possible value from the resources we allocate to health care. By freeing up resources currently used inefficiently we have the opportunity to address areas of need currently under-resourced.
Efficiency is closely related to equity as individuals who do not achieve their potential are unable to contribute optimally to the economy. Indeed they are often a significant cost to the economy.
AHCRA acknowledges there are areas of inefficiency within the Australian health system. These include funding systems which do not allocate resources where they could deliver the greatest value, competing insurance providers that add little or no value, practices that are not based on evidence and health professionals who are not working to their potential. One of the most fundamental issue is the jurisdictional inefficiencies associated with the divided health care responsibilities of our State and Federal governments.
Another key issue is to ensure that health care is funded via the most equitable and efficient mechanism available, in most cases this is through progressive taxation.
Addressing these issues will improve the overall efficiency of our health system and promote better health outcomes.
Universality as a principle embraces the goal that all Australians are entitled to an equal opportunity to maximise their health and well-being. This goes beyond simply ensuring that all people are treated the same in relation to access to health care services and reflects the need for care to take into account individual differences and address equity of outcomes. A genuinely universal health system would take into account the social determinants of health and address the broad range of social, economic, geographic and cultural factors which influence the outcomes of health care and impact overall health and well-being.
Universality also includes a commitment to consumer and community involvement in all aspects of the health system, including in setting priorities, the allocation of funding, research and evaluation and service delivery. This involvement needs to include input from all sectors of our community, in particular those often marginalised by mainstream services, such as people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, Indigenous Australians, people with disabilities and the LGBTI community.
AHCRA believes that all Australians deserve access to high quality health care. Australia is an affluent country and can afford to fund a world-class health system for all. We have a highly skilled and dedicated health and medical workforce and the resources to support them to perform at their best.
Excellence in national health care provision is closely related to both equity and efficiency. A high quality health system is one which promotes equitable access and uses resources efficiently. While there are many areas of excellence within our current health system, there are also many areas of inequity and where resources could be better applied. Addressing these issues will improve the overall performance of our health system and increase health outcomes.
An excellent health system does not mean spending money without constraint. In fact, by ensuring we allocate our resources to the areas where they will achieve the best possible outcomes, we will improve health system outcomes and maximise the well-being and quality of life of all Australians.
AHCRA believes that health care is a right and should be available on the basis of need and not the ability to pay. Currently, many population groups have less access to health care than the general community. These include people with low incomes, those living in rural and regional areas and people from some diverse linguistic and cultural groups.
While our health resources will always be limited, we can afford to address these inequities and provide all Australians with timely access to services that maintain and support health.
There is a wide body of research available on all aspects of health care, including funding mechanisms, health service management and clinical care. However, many decisions made at all levels of our health system are not currently based on the available evidence. It is important that this evidence is used as widely as possible throughout our health system by policy makers, health service managers, funders and clinicians.
Basing the development and implementation of health policies, programs and services on evidence increases the chance that they will achieve optimum outcomes and deliver good value to the community.
A social determinants of health perspective
Research has demonstrated that health is determined by a broad range of factors that lie outside the health system. These include education, employment, housing and the environment. AHCRA believes that the Australian health system needs to be based on a social determinants of health perspective.
Currently many health policies and programs ignore the social determinants of health and are designed as though the main influencers of health status lie solely within the heath system. This means that they have only a limited impact on health outcomes.
Consumers and the community are both the funders and the users of health care and therefore have a unique stake in ensuring Australia’s health system is functioning optimally. AHCRA believes that our health system should be built on a partnership between the Australian community and consumers.
This includes ensuring that health care policy is grounded in and measured against community values; and that changes to the health care system are driven by the Australian community, rather than providers or other stakeholders.
Primary Health Care
Evidence from health systems worldwide demonstrates that the most effective health systems are those which are based on a strong primary health care sector. This ensures that the health system is designed to optimise the utilisation of health promotion and preventive strategies and enable the early diagnosis and treatment of chronic disease.
Strengthening Australia’s primary health care sector would increase both the efficiency of our health system and health outcomes.
The health workforce is Australia’s most important health resource and needs to be used carefully to ensure it is sustainable and delivers high quality outcomes. Australia must have a policy that extends beyond ‘self sufficiency’ to see us not only capable of training the health professionals needed to care for our community but also able to contribute to the health of our region of the world.
Health workforce planning should result in the development of professionals who can provide quality services in a culturally sensitive manner to cater for the diversity that characterises modern Australia.