Why do we need health reform? Three graphs tell the story

There are many positive features of the Australian health system.  Overall, we spend around the OECD average on health care (as a proportion of GDP) and achieve above average health outcomes.  We have high quality, dedicated medical and health care professionals and a “universal” medical and pharmaceutical benefits scheme.

However, despite these positives there are many areas in which our health system needs to improve.  In particular, we need to do more to address inequalities in health status between different groups in the community, such as Indigenous vs non-Indigenous, affluent vs disadvantaged and rural vs urban.

We also need to focus more on preventing and managing chronic and complex conditions.  This requires changing the way in which we fund and deliver healthcare, including moving away from a time-based, fee-for-service funding system which rewards activity rather than outcome. 

The following three graphs illustrate key problems within our health system.  They are why AHCRA advocates re-orienting our health system around prevention and primary health care.  We also promote broader economic and social policies which address the social determinants of health to reduce social inequality and give all Australians a fair go. 

Graph 1: Avoidable deaths and social exclusion

From: AIHW Australia’s Health 2016

Graph 2: Medicare-funded services per capita by region

Note: this does not take into account non-MBS funded services available in some areas, such as services provided by community health centres

From: AIHW Australia’s Health 2016

Graph 3: Percentage of total health budget spent on prevention

From the Public Health Advocacy Institute of Western Australia www.phaiwa.org.au