AFPHM eBulletin - 9 March 2018

Effects of loneliness and social isolation on health

Loneliness and social isolation is a public health issue which can affect all age groups and people from all ethnic backgrounds. Loneliness and social isolation can have a detrimental effect on health and wellbeing. There is robust evidence that loneliness and social isolation are associated with increased all-cause morbidity and mortality, behavioural risk factors, mental health conditions, and hospitalisations [1-4]. Moreover, the impact of loneliness and social isolation on an individual’s health can have significant cost implications for health and social care services [5].

The number of people living in households provides key insights for the planning and delivery of services, as well as levels of social connectedness, isolation, mental health and wellbeing. People living alone may be at a higher risk of being lonely or socially isolated. 

Data collected during the 2016 census by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows that South Australia (28 per cent) has a higher proportion of single (or lone) person households compared with Australia as a whole (24.4 per cent) [6]. The South Australian Monitoring and Surveillance System (SAMSS) is an epidemiological survey which collects data on population disease risk factors, determinants on health and chronic disease outcomes across South Australia. In 2016 SAMSS survey, those who reported living alone had higher rates of cardiovascular diseases (CVD), poor self-rated health, poor subjective wellbeing, mental health problems, tobacco smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity compared with those who lived with other people. 

  • 17.8 per cent of people living alone had CVDs compared with 7.5 per cent of people living with other people.
  • 35.7 per cent of people living alone reported their health as fair or poor compared with 15.8 per cent of people living with other people.
  • 18 per cent of people living alone reported poor subjective wellbeing compared with 13 per cent of people living with other people.
  • 24.5 per cent of people living alone had mental health problems compared with 16.6 per cent of people living with other people.
  • 19.5 per cent of people living alone were tobacco smokers compared with 14.4 per cent of people living with other people.
  • 65.2 per cent of people living alone were either overweight or obese compared with 60.7 per cent of people living with other people.
  • 31.1 per cent of people living alone reported not doing physical activities compared with 20.6 per cent of people living with other people.

Hence, the evidence suggests that loneliness and social isolation may have negative health effects and could impact on quality of life, and that addressing them would benefit the public health and well-being status of the South Australian population.

Collaborative efforts are required by governments, employers, businesses, local organisations, families, and individuals to tackle loneliness and social isolation.

Dr Suresh Joshi | Epidemiologist
Population Health Surveys | Prevention and Population Health Branch 
SA Department for Health and Ageing


  1. Longman, J., et al., The role of social isolation in frequent and/or avoidable hospitalisation: rural community-based service providers’ perspectives. Australian Health Review, 2013. 37(2): p. 223-231.
  2. Luo, Y., et al., Loneliness, health, and mortality in old age: A national longitudinal study. Social Science & Medicine, 2012. 74(6): p. 907-914.
  3. Steptoe, A., et al., Social isolation, loneliness, and all-cause mortality in older men and women. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013. 110(15): p. 5797-5801.
  4. Valtorta, N.K., et al., Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke: systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal observational studies. 2016, British Medical Association. p. 1009.
  5. Gerst-Emerson, K. and J. Jayawardhana, Loneliness as a Public Health Issue: The Impact of Loneliness on Health Care Utilization Among Older Adults. American Journal of Public Health, 2015. 105(5): p. 1013-1019.
  6. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016 Census of population and housing - Table Builder. 2016. 2016, ABS: Canberra, Australia.

A message from your President

The Closing the Gap Prime Minister’s Report 2018 reports on the first ten years of progress towards improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health against the seven targets established by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) through the Closing the Gap Strategy. Only three of the targets are reported to be on track, these are: to halve the gap in child mortality by 2018; to have 95 per cent of all indigenous four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025; and to halve the gap in Year 12 attainment by 2020. Four targets, however, are not on track and these are: to close the gap in school attendance by 2018; to halve the gap in reading and numeracy by 2018; to halve the gap in employment by 2018; and to close the gap in life expectancy by 2031. National Close the Gap Day, which is being held next week on 15 March 2018, provides an opportunity to pause and reflect on our progress as a country to support all Australians to have a healthy, fulfilled life. 

The RACP Indigenous Strategic Framework was presented to the February RACP Council meeting. AFPHM Fellows were actively involved in the development of the framework which commits to the following priorities:

  • contributing to addressing indigenous health inequities
  • growing the Indigenous physician workforce
    educating and equipping the physician work
  • force on Indigenous health and culturally safe clinical practice
  • fostering a culturally safe and competent College
  • meeting the regulatory standards and requirements of the Australian Medical Council (AMC) and Medical Council of New Zealand (MCNZ).

This is a time to celebrate and learn more about our traditional cultures, their knowledge and stories. Firstly, at the Australian Museum in Sydney a new exhibition, ‘Gadi’, tells the story of Sydney at the time of European colonisation. Gadi is the word for the grass tree which grew in abundance around Sydney and was used extensively by the Gadigal people. This is part of the inaugural Weave Festival of Aboriginal and Pacific Cultures. Secondly, in Brisbane the ‘Time and Tides’ exhibition is currently on at the Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art, showcasing the art of the Torres Strait Islands. Thirdly, near Auckland the annual Pasifika Festival, is being held on 24 March 2018. 

During February it was a great pleasure to attend the meetings of the Victorian and the Tasmanian AFPHM Regional Committees. In Melbourne a major topic was how we as a faculty can sustain the public health medicine workforce and, in particular, the actions that can be taken in Victoria. In Hobart we discussed a closely related topic, the evolving STP program. Both will be on the agenda for the next meeting of AFPHM Council. In Hobart it was a great pleasure to join the Gerry Murphy Prize presentations by Dr Gabriela Willis and Dr Anton Forsythe. I look forward to hearing the national Gerry Murphy Prize presentations at the RACP Congress in May. 

At both meetings Fellows and trainees wanted news of the progress of the Future of the Faculty Report, since the formation of the RACP Working Group to review issues raised by the report. This Working Group has now met once in late December.  This was also an item on the February RACP Council agenda to which I spoke briefly. There was great interest from the Council members in the issues raised and they were interested to hear more. 

Finally on Monday this week you will have received notification by email from the College about the RACP Elections 2018. Voting has now opened. This vote will determine the incoming RACP President-Elect and three member directors for the new smaller RACP Board. I strongly urge you all to vote in this election. 

Webinar #2 2018: Welcome to the 2018 Advanced Training program in Public Health Medicine

The second webinar for 2018 will be held on 14 March 2018, 2pm to 3pm AEDT. This webinar will cover updates to the Advanced Training Program in Public Health Medicine, as well as introduce the program to new trainees. 

Presenter:  Professor Robyn Lucas (Chair, AFPHM Education Committee).

For information on how to join this webinar, see the RACP website.

To watch previous webinars, go to our YouTube playlist

If you are interested in presenting a future webinar, please contact

National Training Days – save the date

The 2018 annual AFPHM National Training Days will be held at the RACP Sydney office over the weekend of Saturday, 12 and Sunday, 13 May 2018 (the weekend prior to the RACP Congress). All trainees on the AFPHM Advanced Training Program are invited to attend this excellent opportunity for networking and public health education.

A stimulating program is currently being designed by a working group of AFPHM Fellows and trainees. The Faculty is pleased to be able to offer presentations by eminent international public health speakers: Dr David Pencheon (Director, NHS Sustainable Development Unit, UK) and Professor Alistair Woodward (Head of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Auckland). Other program highlights include sessions on medical cannabis, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, obesity, environmental health risk assessment, public health careers, and more.

The finalised program and information on how to register for the event will be circulated to all AFPHM trainees as soon as possible. In the meantime, all trainees are encouraged to diarise this event and to watch this space and emails for further details.

Voting now open for College elections

College elections are a terrific opportunity to consider the ideas being put forward by College Members and cast your vote for the leaders of tomorrow.

Voting is now open and in accordance with the College’s Constitution and By-laws, voting will close at 5pm AEST, Tuesday, 3 April 2018.

Read more

RACP C​ongress 2018 – ​program update

RACP Congress 2018 will take place at the International Convention Centre, Sydney, from 14 to 16 May 2018.

Register now for sessions such as Dr David Pencheon, Director of the National Health Service Sustainable Development Unit, United Kingdom, who will be exploring disruption for sustainable health care in the Opening Keynote Oration on Monday morning and Professor Alistair Woodward, Head of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Auckland, who will be covering the public health topic of climate change in the Redfern Oration.

For more information on the RACP Congress program, registration and speakers visit the Congress website

Call for nominations

The call for nominations for various elected positions or, if applicable, expressions of interest for appointment, to Division, Faculty, Chapter, New Zealand and Australian Regional Councils or Committees is now open.

Learn more

South Australia Election Statement 

The College has released a South Australian Election Statement prior to the election on 17 March.

It calls on the incoming government to focus on key priorities and makes specific policy recommendations on matters including vaccination, disability services, integrated care, digital health and telehealth, Indigenous health, and high-value care.

Faculty 2018 examination dates available online

The Faculty 2018 examination dates are now available on the College website.  Candidates will be advised when exam application forms are available on the website.  This will be prior to registrations opening in 2018.  For more information contact the Examinations Unit at or phone 1300 MY RACP (1300 697 227) or +61 2 9256 5444.

AMA Public Health Awards 2018 – call for nominations 

The AMA is seeking nominations of people or groups who have made an extraordinary contribution to health care and public health. Recipients will be invited to attend the 2018 AMA National Conference in Canberra in May 2018, where the awards will be presented. In the year following the presentation of the awards, recipients will have the opportunity to participate in interviews with interested media, and engage in AMA supported activities promoting their work in their field of expertise. 

Nominations are sought in the following categories: 

  • AMA Excellence in Healthcare Award
  • AMA Woman in Medicine Award.

More information regarding the awards and the nomination process may be found on the AMA website. Nominations close COB Monday, 23 April 2018.

How is immigration control impacting the health care sector?

A researcher from Monash University is asking Australian health care professionals and health justice advocates to help investigate how immigration controls impact on the provision of health care within the Australian community.

Complete an online survey covering topics including: access to health services by visa holders, information exchange between health care providers and immigration authorities, visits to health care providers by immigration officials, and actions taken by health professionals to support patients experiencing immigration problems. 

It is not necessary to have knowledge or experience of these topics to take part in the survey

No identifying information is being collected and participants are invited to complete the questionnaire based on their own professional experience.

New initiative introduced for Indigenous communities to participate in 2018 conferences

Indigenous Conference Services (ICS) Australia is proud to announce the launch of its 2018 Indigenous Conferences which takes you to Cairns, Canberra and Brisbane with a broad range of topics in Indigenous affairs.  

2018 sees an exciting new initiative introduced to encourage and help Indigenous communities participate in 2018 conferences, ​they have allocated up to 70 per cent of the conference proceedings to community groups and partnerships between community and government organisations in an attempt to promote the positives being achieved. We hear time and time again throughout the media how Closing the Gap initiatives are not being achieved where in real terms, many successful leap forwards are taking place.  ​ICS invite you to submit-a-paper and be part of the positive movement in Indigenous Australia. 

For more information, please visit the conference website at or contact by them by email at

Voting is now open for the Medical Council election

The Medical Council of New Zealand election opened on Tuesday, 20 February 2018. ​Twenty one candidates are standing for four positions. 

Voting closes on Friday, 23 March 2018. 

Read more

Claiming initial attendance items – education campaign from the Department of Health

The Department of Health will be conducting an education campaign in March 2018 on the use of Medicare Benefit Scheme (MBS) initial attendance items 104 and 110. The campaign will involve the department writing to specialists and consultant physicians who appear to be claiming multiple initial attendance items for a patient’s single course of treatment.

This is a good opportunity for all specialists and consultant physicians to review their billing protocols for these items. To assist providers, the department has developed a checklist for initial attendance items 104 and 110 that is available for download.

Initial attendance items must only be claimed for the first attendance of a single course of treatment. Any subsequent attendance that relates to the continuing management or review of the referred condition, up to the stage where the patient is referred back to the care of the referring practitioner, is to be billed as a subsequent attendance item (e.g. 105, 116 or 119). The department will be continuing to monitor MBS items 104 and 110 in the future.

Expressions of Interest

Check the RACP Expressions of Interest page at any time, to find out if there are any opportunities that are of benefit to you.

Conferences and events

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians publishes notices of events and courses as a service to members. Such publication does not constitute endorsement or mandating of any such events or courses.

Missioncraft 2018 – Leadership in Disaster Relief

Go to the RACP events list at any time to see what events are coming up.

AFPHM contact details

AFPHM Faculty enquiries (including Council and committees):
Kerri Clarke, Executive Officer, AFPHM
Phone: +61 2 9256 9622

AFPHM Education and Training enquiries:
Lia Iliou, Education Officer
Phone: +61 2 8247 6286

AFPHM Oral Examination enquiries:
Caroline Greenaway, Examination Coordinator, Assessment and Selection Unit
Phone: +61 2 9256 9681

AFPHM training site accreditation inquiries:
Site Accreditation Unit
Phone: +61 2 9256 9674

AFPHM CPD enquiries:
Office of the Dean (CPD)
Phone: +61 2 8247 6285
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