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How to reform primary health care to close the gap

Sophia Couzos writes in The Conversation (4.4.16) about new ways that the primary health care system can be improved to better serve Indigenous communities, and lessen the ‘health gap’.

‘Primary Health Networks were established in 2015 to reform the primary health-care system and better coordinate care across Australia.

‘A range of services make up the primary care system in Australia. These include private general practices, community health centres within hospitals, and Aboriginal community-controlled health services. There are 31 primary health network boundaries across Australia, managed by a local board and funded by the Australian government.

‘A core focus for primary health networks is to understand the health-care needs of their communities, identify service gaps and focus on patients at risk of poor health outcomes. Among the priority patient groups are Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders.

‘Recently, funding to primary health networks for ice and mental health programs was announced. This came with the expectation that primary health networks will work closely with Aboriginal community-controlled health services “to make sure we get those Indigenous treatment services right”, according to the minister for rural health.

‘The new Health Care Home trials will also involve Aboriginal health services. This requires primary health networks to collaborate with these services to build relevant patient health-care pathways. How can primary health networks work closely with these services?’

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