Health group’s action call

“Whoever is elected to the next parliament, whether to government, opposition or crossbenches, please consider health in any decisions that you make,” says Alison Verhoeven, CEO of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA).

In a media statement released this week, Ms Verhoeven outlines how a person’s health and wellbeing extend beyond their immediate presenting concerns, having origins in childhood opportunities, parenting, growing up, education, housing, hygiene, food, water, social connections, work-life balance, individual wealth, availability and affordability of services, opportunities to exercise, the feeling of belonging, the environment and many other determinants.

“At AHHA we call on future parliamentarians to embrace this holistic view of health and wellbeing so that as many Australians as possible have lives well lived”, she said.

“Consider climate change and the social determinants, consider a preventive approach to healthcare, and don’t fear devoting resources to them. They’re investments that will bring social returns and future savings through reduced future healthcare needs.

“That’s why throughout this election campaign period AHHA has been urging our political leaders to reinvigorate preventive health measures designed to further reduce smoking, and harmful alcohol and illicit drug consumption.

“It’s why we’ve urged that all town water supplies in Australia are fluoridated in the interests of child dental health.

“It’s why we continue to call for a sugar tax to reduce obesity as well as dental decay in kids.

“It’s why we’ve advocated for ‘joining up’ primary and hospital healthcare services with aged care and with care for people with disability.

“Of course, while we can do much more to reduce future healthcare needs, we will still need the best healthcare system we can have that is fair, equitable and affordable.

Ms Verhoeven says that that during the current election campaign AHHA has advocated for strategic investment of public funds in healthcare rather than “cash splashes”, and has applauded evidence-based measures that put patients first and focus on outcomes that matter to them.

“We’ve welcomed measures that keep healthcare affordable,” she said.

Ms Verhoeven highlighted the specific areas of:

  • Dental care
  • Cancer care
  • Keeping healthcare accessible especially for people living in rural and remote Australia, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • Advocating for attention to vulnerable populations, in particular the mental health needs of young Aboriginal people following the unprecedented rise in number of suicides in this group

“In summary,” she said, “let’s not be afraid of reform.

“It makes sense to reorientate our healthcare system to focus on patient outcomes and value rather than throughput and vested interests. It makes sense to boost universal healthcare, equity in health, and coordinated and integrated care and it makes sense to support a holistic view of health and wellbeing.”

Sending a clear message to the next generation of parliamentarians, Ms Verhoeven added: “Let’s do all this during the term of the next parliament.”

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