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1.  The trend in mental health-related mortality rates in Australia 1916-2004: implications for policy 
This study determines the trend in mental health-related mortality (defined here as the aggregation of suicide and deaths coded as "mental/behavioural disorders"), and its relative numerical importance, and to argue that this has importance to policy-makers. Its results will have policy relevance because policy-makers have been predominantly concerned with cost-containment, but a re-appraisal of this issue is occurring, and the trade-off between health expenditures and valuable gains in longevity is being emphasised now. This study examines longevity gains from mental health-related interventions, or their absence, at the population level. The study sums mortality data for suicide and mental/behavioural disorders across the relevant ICD codes through time in Australia for the period 1916-2004. There are two measures applied to the mortality rates: the conventional age-standardised headcount; and the age-standardised Potential Years of Life Lost (PYLL), a measure of premature mortality. Mortality rates formed from these data are analysed via comparisons with mortality rates for All Causes, and with circulatory diseases, cancer and motor vehicle accidents, measured by both methods.
This study finds the temporal trend in mental health-related mortality rates (which reflects the longevity of people with mental illness) has worsened through time. There are no gains. This trend contrasts with the (known) gains in longevity from All Causes, and the gains from decreases achieved in previously rising mortality rates from circulatory diseases and motor vehicle accidents. Also, PYLL calculation shows mental health-related mortality is a proportionately greater cause of death compared with applying headcount metrics.
There are several factors that could reverse this trend. First, improved access to interventions or therapies for mental disorders could decrease the mortality analysed here. Second, it is important also that new efficacious therapies for various mental disorders be developed. Furthermore, it is also important that suicide prevention strategies be implemented, particularly for at-risk groups. To bring the mental health sector into parity with many other parts of the health system will require knowledge of the causative factors that underlie mental disorders, which can, in turn, lead to efficacious therapies. As in any case of a knowledge deficit, what is needed are resources to address that knowledge gap. Conceiving the problem in this way, ie as a knowledge gap, indicates the crucial role of research and development activity. This term implies a concern, not simply with basic research, but also with applied research. It is commonplace in other sectors of the economy to emphasise the trichotomy of invention, innovation and diffusion of new products and processes. This three-fold conception is also relevant to addressing the knowledge gap in the mental health sector.
PMCID: PMC2818650  PMID: 20145728
2.  Representations and coverage of non-English-speaking immigrants and multicultural issues in three major Australian health care publications 
No recent Australian studies or literature, provide evidence of the extent of coverage of multicultural health issues in Australian healthcare research. A series of systematic literature reviews in three major Australian healthcare journals were undertaken to discover the level, content, coverage and overall quality of research on multicultural health. Australian healthcare journals selected for the study were The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA), The Australian Health Review (AHR), and The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health (ANZPH). Reviews were undertaken of the last twelve (12) years (1996-August 2008) of journal articles using six standard search terms: 'non-English-speaking', 'ethnic', 'migrant', 'immigrant', 'refugee' and 'multicultural'.
In total there were 4,146 articles published in these journals over the 12-year period. A total of 90 or 2.2% of the total articles were articles primarily based on multicultural issues. A further 62 articles contained a major or a moderate level of consideration of multicultural issues, and 107 had a minor mention.
The quantum and range of multicultural health research and evidence required for equity in policy, services, interventions and implementation is limited and uneven. Most of the original multicultural health research articles focused on newly arrived refugees, asylum seekers, Vietnamese or South East Asian communities. While there is some seminal research in respect of these represented groups, there are other communities and health issues that are essentially invisible or unrepresented in research. The limited coverage and representation of multicultural populations in research studies has implications for evidence-based health and human services policy.
PMCID: PMC2817687  PMID: 20044938
3.  Paving Pathways: shaping the Public Health workforce through tertiary education 
Public health educational pathways in Australia have traditionally been the province of Universities, with the Master of Public Health (MPH) recognised as the flagship professional entry program. Public health education also occurs within the fellowship training of the Faculty of Public Health Medicine, but within Australia this remains confined to medical graduates. In recent years, however, we have seen a proliferation of undergraduate degrees as well as an increasing public health presence in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector.
Following the 2007 Australian Federal election, the new Labour government brought with it a refreshing commitment to a more inclusive and strategic style of government. An important example of this was the 2020 visioning process that identified key issues of public health concern, including an acknowledgment that it was unacceptable to allocate less than 2% of the health budget towards disease prevention. This led to the recommendation for the establishment of a national preventive health agency (Australia: the healthiest country by 2020 National Preventative Health Strategy, Prepared by the Preventative Health Taskforce 2009).
The focus on disease prevention places a spotlight on the workforce that will be required to deliver the new investment in health prevention, and also on the role of public health education in developing and upskilling the workforce. It is therefore timely to reflect on trends, challenges and opportunities from a tertiary sector perspective. Is it more desirable to focus education efforts on selected lead issues such as the "obesity epidemic", climate change, Indigenous health and so on, or on the underlying theory and skills that build a flexible workforce capable of responding to a range of health challenges? Or should we aspire to both?
This paper presents some of the key discussion points from 2008 - 2009 of the Public Health Educational Pathways workshops and working group of the Australian Network of Public Health Institutions. We highlight some of the competing tensions in public health tertiary education, their impact on public health training programs, and the educational pathways that are needed to grow, shape and prepare the public health workforce for future challenges.
PMCID: PMC2818649  PMID: 20044939
4.  The geographic distribution of private health insurance in Australia in 2001 
Private health insurance has been a major focus of Commonwealth Government health policy for the last decade. Over this period, the Howard government introduced a number of policy changes which impacted on the take up of private health insurance. The most expensive of these was the introduction of the private health insurance rebate in 1997, which had an estimated cost of $3 billion per annum.
This article uses information on the geographic distribution of the population with private health insurance cover to identify associations between rates of private health insurance cover and socioeconomic status. The geographic analysis is repeated with survey data on expenditure on private health insurance, to provide an estimate of the rebate flowing to different socioeconomic groups.
The analysis highlights the strong association between high rates of private health insurance cover and high socioeconomic status and shows the substantial transfer of funds, under the private health insurance rebate, to those living in areas of highest socioeconomic status, compared with those in areas of lower socioeconomic status, and in particular those in the most disadvantaged areas. The article also provides estimates of private health insurance cover by federal electorate, emphasising the substantial gaps in cover between Liberal Party and Australian Labor Party seats.
The article concludes by discussing implications of the uneven distribution of private health insurance cover across Australia for policy formation. In particular, the study shows that the prevalence of private health insurance is unevenly distributed across Australia, with marked differences in prevalence in rural and urban areas, and substantial differences by socioeconomic status. Policy formation needs to take this into account. Evaluating the potential impact of changes in private health insurance requires more nuanced consideration than has been implied in the rhetoric about private health insurance over the last decade.
PMCID: PMC3224949  PMID: 19686590

Results 1-4 (4)