Challenges in Health

Australia’s Healthcare System

Australia’s healthcare system is one of the best in the world, providing quality, safe and affordable health care. Australians enjoy one of the longest life expectancies in the world.

Life Expectancy - Our World in Data

There are many providers in the Australian healthcare system:

  • Local doctor – General Practitioner (GP)
  • Medical specialists eg. heart surgeon
  • Nurses and allied health workers eg. physiotherapist

Medicare and public hospitals provide free or low-cost access for all Australians to most health care services. Private health insurance gives you choice outside the public system.

Challenges in Future

Into the future, our health care system faces a number of challenges.

  • An increasing population, that is increasingly ageing
  • Increasing complexity of services and difficulties for patient access
  • Patient non-compliance with treatment and missed appointments
  • Increasing incidence of obesity, chronic health diseases
  • Increasing incidence of cancer. From 1986 to 2011, incidence rose 26% from 383 p/100,000 to 484 p/100,000)
  • Improving rates of survival from cancer. In 1986 the 5-year survival rate was 46% – in 2011 it was 67%
  • Increasing out-of-pocket costs for cancer patients. For example, patient’s in regional areas often need to travel further for treatment;
  • Low health literacy. Only about 40% of adults having a level of literacy they need to make well-informed health decisions;
  • Community demand for new technology and increasing costs of medical hardware and pharmaceuticals;
  • Imbalances in the supply and distribution of health professionals, which can lead to shortages in outer suburbs, rural, remote and in indigenous communities.
  • Almost 50% have a chronic disease, meaning a more frequent use of services, higher healthcare costs and poorer outcomes. (AIHW).

Chronic disease

Chronic diseases are the major cause of illness, disability and death. The term ‘chronic’ refers to those diseases or illnesses that are long-lasting and persistent. They include mild conditions like short-sightedness, dental decay or hearing loss to more serious arthritis, diabetes, asthma, back pain or more life-threatening, like heart disease or cancer.

Chronic diseases most often persist throughout someone’s life and the need for long-term and often complex management make them an increasing burden on the healthcare system.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) National Health Survey (2015) identified the following eight chronic diseases:

  • arthritis
  • asthma
  • back pain and problems
  • cancer (such as lung and colorectal cancer)
  • cardiovascular disease (coronary heart disease and stroke)
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • diabetes
  • mental health conditions (such as depression).

Figure showing the most common selected chronic diseases for different age groups and sexes. The most common are: mental health conditions (for people aged 0-44 and for females) and cardiovascular disease (for people aged 45-64, people aged 64+, for males, and for people in general).

Source: ABS 2015 (Table 19.1)

For most people, receiving a cancer diagnosis is a life changing event.

While doctors, nurses and specialists focus on treating the cancer, many patients are left alone to deal with the trauma of the diagnosis. Outside of their family, they often face a vacuum of support, with many questions unanswered, and emotions such as grief, anger, depression and fear running high.

At these times, access to professional counselling is vital. In pilot projects with health services, the CanCare Counselling program works to give patients, their families and carers better access to help and support at a time they need it most.

By improving access to psycho-social services, CanCare aims to help patients live longer, with a higher quality of life.

Treating the Psychological and Emotional Impact

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