Federal election 2019: Sustainability, Prevention and Equity: Physicians outline policy agenda ahead of the Federal Election

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) has released its pre-election statement which outlines the policy agenda it will be proposing to the incoming Government.

In its pre-election statement, the RACP has identified sustainability, prevention and equity as three key interlocking priority areas, advocating for a sustainable healthcare system, greater investment in preventative health and a stronger focus on ensuring equity and access for all Australians.

RACP President-elect, Professor John Wilson said, within the context of our ageing population and the increasing prevalence of chronic disease “there has never been a more important time for the Government to invest in a sustainable healthcare system that delivers high quality services for all Australians now and into the future.”

Sustainability

In its pre-election statement, the College is calling on the incoming Government to invest in a sustainable healthcare system by:
• Funding an integrated model of care for management of patients with co-morbid chronic health conditions that includes specialist physicians, nurses and allied health practitioners
• Considering reforms to the Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS) or other financial incentives to incentivise direct communications between general practitioners (GPs) and specialists in the management of patients with chronic disease
• Considering further MBS reform to reduce the general practice burden on public hospital emergency departments and specialist hospital outpatient clinics

“The integration of health services across hospital, community and primary healthcare settings is absolutely crucial to meeting the capacity pressures arising from the increasing needs of the Australian population, particularly those with chronic health conditions," said Professor Wilson.

“Specialists have an important role to play alongside general practitioners in the treatment of these patients, yet specialist expertise has not been adequately recognised and funded in previous initiatives aimed at patients with chronic conditions."

The RACP is also calling on the incoming government to extend the availability and effectiveness of digital health and telehealth to support more equitable access to specialist care.

Prevention

In the area of preventative health, the RACP is calling on the incoming government to:
• re-establish and fund a national preventative health body to set nationwide goals, direct investment and coordinate implementation of initiatives
• prioritise obesity prevention, including the implementation of an effective tax on sugar sweetened beverages, developing a national strategy on obesity and revising the nutrient profile algorithm of the Health Star Rating system
• work to reduce the harms of alcohol consumption, including the introduction of a volumetric taxation system for all alcohol products and increasing funding for alcohol and other drug treatment services.

“Over the last decade we have witnessed an overwhelming increase in the incidences of preventable disorders such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular conditions, due to factors such as smoking, sedentary lives and unbalanced diets.

“As a priority, the incoming Government must develop an independent national preventative health agency which will define long-term strategic goals for tackling chronic diseases and coordinate preventative health action networks across the country,” said Professor Wilson.

Equity

In its pre-election statement, the RACP calls on the incoming government to urgently prioritise Indigenous health and child health.

Limited access to specialist care for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is an issue of particular concern for the RACP. Data shows that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people access Medicare-rebated specialist services 40 per cent less than non-Indigenous people, despite their higher rates of chronic disease.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leadership and authentic community engagement is crucial to achieving improved health outcomes. The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector is of vital importance in delivering effective, culturally safe care to Australia’s First Peoples,” said Professor Wilson.

“The RACP is concerned about continuing inequities in child health outcomes and access to healthcare. In Australia, we know that a large number of children will not have the same health, wellbeing and developmental outcomes as their more socially advantaged peers. Such inequities are not only unjust, but they are preventable.”

The RACP calls on the incoming government to:
• commit to securing, long-term funding for the Rural Health Outreach Fund (RHOF) and Medical Outreach Indigenous Chronic Disease Program (MOICDP) commensurate with the burden of disease
• engage and consult with the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector and the RACP to utilise specialist expertise and clinical knowledge in reducing Indigenous child health inequities
• Immediately reinstate the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council (AHMAC) subcommittee on child and youth health
• commit to new investment in paediatric child health services that are universally available
• fund expanded home visit programs, particularly in rural and remote areas
• commit funding to establish and maintain an Inequities in Child Health Alliance

“Every child, no matter where they live or who they are, should have the same opportunity to fulfil their potential,” said Professor Wilson.

“In the lead up to the Federal election, we want to see both major parties commit to achieving fairer access to healthcare and more equitable health outcomes for all Australians.”

Media contact: Peter Stahel – media@racp.edu.au, 0408 584 439

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