The Department of Health in Western Australia identified access to, and daily consumption of recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables, as priority health determinants. The numerous factors that influence supply and consumption of fruit and vegetables indicated that a comprehensive approach would be required.
A government and non-government sector steering group was set up to select priority interventions using the National Public Health Partnership's Framework for Implementing Public Health Strategies. This structured framework was used for developing strategies to improve fruit and vegetable consumption and supply, and to identify implementation priorities.
After one year a desktop audit of progress on framework interventions was undertaken.
The structured framework led to a plan for defined actions, partners, costs, and performance indicators for strategies to improve fruit and vegetable consumption and supply. Lead agency custodians for management of the selected interventions were identified.
After one year there was significant progress in the implementation of a number of the high-ranking interventions. The exception was interventions that provide the infrastructure support such as research and development capacity, information systems.
A structured framework and stakeholder participation assisted in developing a fruit and vegetable implementation strategy. Engagement and commitment of influential and diverse stakeholders is needed, not just for program support, but particularly in the areas of food and nutrition policy development and providing the infrastructure support required. Further work is required to develop performance outcomes and cost effectiveness measures for many of the strategies that have been proposed to address portfolio objectives.
Worldwide, the public health community has recognized the growing problem of childhood obesity. But, unlike tobacco control policy, there is little evidence about what public policies would work to substantially reduce childhood obesity. Public health leaders currently tend to support traditional "command and control" schemes that order private enterprises and governments to stop or start doing specific things that, is it hoped, will yield lower childhood obesity rates. These include measures such as 1) taking sweetened beverages out of schools, 2) posting calorie counts on fast-food menu boards, 3) labeling foods with a "red light" if they contain high levels of fat or sugar, 4) limiting the density of fast food restaurants in any neighborhood, 5) requiring chain restaurants to offer "healthy" alternatives, and 6) eliminating junk food ads on television shows aimed at children. Some advocates propose other regulatory interventions such as 1) influencing the relative prices of healthy and unhealthy foods through taxes and/or subsidies and 2) suing private industry for money damages as a way of blaming childhood obesity on certain practices of the food industry (such as its marketing, product composition, or portion size decisions). The food industry generally seeks to deflect blame for childhood obesity onto others, such as parents and schools.
The aim of this paper is to illustrate a simple method for increasing the range of possible options for reducing adverse events in Australian hospitals, which could have been, but was not, adopted in the wake of the landmark 1995 'Quality in Australian Health Care' study, and to report the suggestions and the estimated lapse time before they would impact upon mortality and morbidity.
The study used a modified Delphi technique that first elicited options for reducing adverse events from an invited panel selected on the basis of their knowledge of the area of adverse events and quality assurance. Initial suggestions were collated and returned to them for re-consideration and comment.
Completed responses from both stages were obtained from 20 of those initially approached. Forty-one options for reducing AEs were identified with an average lapse time of 3.5 years. Hospital regulation had the least delay (2.4 years) and out of hospital information the greatest (6.4 years).
Following identification of the magnitude of the problem of adverse events in the 'Quality in Australian Health Care' study a more rapid and broad ranging response was possible than occurred. Apparently viable options for reducing adverse events and associated mortality and morbidity remain unexploited.
In 2001, the New Zealand government introduced its Primary Health Care Strategy (PHCS), aimed at strengthening the role of primary health care, in order to improve health and to reduce inequalities in health. As part of the Strategy, new funding was provided to reduce the fees that patients pay when they use primary health care services in New Zealand, to improve access to services and to increase service use. In this article, we estimate the impact of the new funding on general practitioner and practice nurse visit fees paid by patients and on consultation rates. The analyses involved before-and-after monitoring of fees and consultation rates in a random sample of 99 general practices and covered the period from June 2001 (pre-Strategy) to mid-2005.
Fees fell particularly in Access (higher need, higher per capita funded) practices over time for doctor and nurse visits. Fees increased over time for many in Interim (lower need, lower per capita funded) practices, but they fell for patients aged 65 years and over as new funding was provided for this age group. There were increases in consultation rates across almost all age, funding model (Access or Interim), socio-demographic and ethnic groups. Increases were particularly high in Access practices.
The Strategy has resulted in lower fees for primary health care for many New Zealanders, and consultation rates have also increased over the past few years. However, fees have not fallen by as much as expected in government policy given the amount of extra public money spent since there are limited requirements for practices to reduce patients' fees in line with increases in public funding for primary care.
Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women in Australia. Early detection provides the best chance of reducing mortality and morbidity from the disease. Mammographic screening is a population health strategy for the early detection of breast cancer in Australia. Recruitment strategies such as regular advertising and biannual screening invitations are exclusively targeted at women aged 50 – 69 years. Even though they can participate, women 70 years or over are not invited or actively encouraged to undertake screening. Research has found that a routine letter of invitation increases the number of women participating in breast cancer screening.
Cancer data analysis and a literature and policy review was conducted to assess age specific breast cancer mortality rates and the legitimacy of rationale used to limit invitations for breast cancer screening to women younger than 70 years.
The proportion of women over 69 years participating in the BreastScreen program is significantly less than rate of screening in the target age range (50–69 years). Evidence and data indicate that common justifications for limiting screening reminders to the target age range including life expectancy, comorbidities, effectiveness, treatment and cost are, for many women, unreasonable.
There is now sufficient data to support a change in the targeted upper age range for breast cancer screening to improve the existing suboptimal surveillance in women aged over 69 years.
"Joined-up' government and 'whole-of-government' approaches have evolved over the past two decades from the simple 'one-stop-shop' concept to much more formal organisational structures mandated at the highest levels. In many cases, the participants in these developments were learning on the job, as they responded to community and political demands for better service delivery and more accountability. This paper looks back at some of those developments and proposes a schema to assess and place policies, strategies and programs.
Obesity levels in England are significantly higher than in much of the rest of Europe. This article examines aspects of the physical and cultural context of food consumption in England, and the evolution of government policy on obesity, as a background to an analysis of how law might play a role in obesity prevention. Research suggests that individual food choices are associated with cultural and socio-economic circumstances and that they can be manipulated by advertising, food packaging and presentation. This suggests that there might be ways of using law to manage the influences on food choices, and of using law in support of strategies to redirect food choices towards healthy food products. Law is a particularly useful tool in the protection of the individual against the economic power of the food industry, and there is much that law can do to change the physical, economic and social environment of food consumption.
Many refugees arrive in Australia with complex health needs. In South Australia (SA), providing initial health care to refugees is the responsibility of General Practitioners (GPs) in private practice. Their capacity to perform this work effectively for current newly arrived refugees is uncertain. The aim of this study was to document the challenges faced by GPs in private practice in SA when providing initial care to refugees and to discuss the implications of this for policy relating to optimising health care services for refugees.
Semi-structured interviews with twelve GPs in private practice and three Medical Directors of Divisions of General Practice. Using a template analysis approach the interviews were coded and analysed thematically.
Multiple challenges providing care to refugees were found including those related to: (1) refugee health issues; (2) the GP-refugee interaction; and (3) the structure of general practice. The Divisions also reported challenges assisting GPs to provide effective care related to a lack of funding and awareness of which GPs required support. Although respondents suggested a number of ways that GPs could be assisted to provide better initial care to refugees, strong support was voiced for the initial care of refugees to be provided via a specialist refugee health service.
GPs in this study were under-resourced, at both an individual GP level as well as a structural level, to provide effective initial care for refugees. In SA, there are likely to be a number of challenges attempting to increase the capacity of GPs in private practice to provide initial care. An alternative model is for refugees with multiple and complex health care needs as well as those with significant resettlement challenges to receive initial health care via the existing specialist refugee health service in Adelaide.
There is a severe shortage of nurses in Australia. Policy makers and researchers are especially concerned that retention levels of nurses in the health workforce have worsened over the last decade. There are also concerns that rapidly growing private sector hospitals are attracting qualified nurses away from the public sector. To date no systematic analysis of trends in nursing retention rates over time has been conducted due to the lack of consistent panel data.
A 1.4 percentage point improvement in retention has led to a 10% increase in the overall supply of nurses in NSW. There has also been a substantial aging of the workforce, due to greater retention and an increase in mature age entrants. The improvement in retention is found in all types of premises and is largest in nursing homes. There is a substantial amount of year to year movement in and out of the workforce and across premises. The shortage of nurses in public hospitals is due to a slowdown in entry rather than competition from the rapidly growing private sector hospitals.
The finding of an improvement (rather than a worsening) in retention suggests that additional improvements may be difficult to achieve as further retention must involve individuals more and more dissatisfied with nursing relative to other opportunities. Hence policies targeting entry such as increased places in nursing programs and additional subsidies for training costs may be more effective in dealing with the workforce shortage. This is also the case for shortages in public sector hospitals as retention in nursing is found to be relatively high in this sector. However, the large amount of year to year movements across nursing jobs, especially among the younger nurses, also suggests that policies aimed at reducing job switches and increasing the number who return to nursing should also be pursued. More research is needed in understanding the relative importance of detailed working conditions and the problems associated with combining family responsibilities and nursing jobs.
This paper provides an historical review of physical activity policy development in Australia for a period spanning a decade since the release of the US Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health in 1996 and including the 2004 WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. Using our definition of 'HARDWIRED' policy criteria, this Australian review is compared with an international perspective of countries with established national physical activity policies and strategies (New Zealand, Canada, Brazil, Scotland, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Finland). Methods comprised a literature and policy review, audit of relevant web sites, document searches and surveys of international stakeholders.
All these selected countries embraced multi-strategic policies and undertook monitoring of physical activity through national surveys. Few committed to policy of more than three years duration and none undertook systematic evaluation of national policy implementation. This Australian review highlights phases of innovation and leadership in physical activity-related policy, as well as periods of stagnation and decline; early efforts were amongst the best in the world but by the mid-point of this review (the year 2000), promising attempts towards development of a national intersectoral policy framework were thwarted by reforms in the Federal Sport and Recreation sector. Several well received reviews of evidence on good practices in physical activity and public health were produced in the period but leadership and resources were lacking to implement the policies and programs indicated. Latterly, widespread publicity and greatly increased public and political interest in chronic disease prevention, (especially in obesity and type 2 diabetes) have dominated the framework within which Australian policy deliberations have occurred. Finally, a national physical activity policy framework for the Health sector emerged, but not as a policy vision that was inclusive of the other essential sectors such as Education, Transport, Urban Planning as well as Sport and Recreation.
Despite some progression of physical activity policy in the decade since 1995/6, this review found inconsistent policy development, both in Australia and elsewhere. Arguably, Australia has done no worse than other countries, but more effective responses to physical inactivity in populations can be built only on sustainable multi-sectoral public health policy partnerships that are well informed by evidence of effectiveness and good practice. In Australia and elsewhere prerequisites for success are political support, long-term investment and commitment to program implementation and evaluation. An urgent priority is media and political advocacy for physical activity focussed on these factors.
In rural health and other health service development contexts, there is frustration with a reliance on pilot projects as a means of informing policy and service innovation. There is also an emerging recognition that existing research methods do not draw lessons from the failed sustainability that characterises many of these pilots and demonstration projects.
This article describes critical aspects of the methodology of a successful collaborative, multi-method, systematic synthesis of exemplary primary health care pilot projects in rural and remote Australia, which synthesised principles from a number of pilot projects to inform policy makers and planners. Hallmarks of the method were: the nature of the source materials for the research, the subsequent research engagement with the actual pilot projects, the extent of collaboration throughout the study with end-users from policy and planning arenas, and the attention to procedural quality.
The methodology, while time consuming, has resulted in applied, policy-relevant findings, and evidence of consideration by policy-makers.
This paper examines work in deliberative approaches to community engagement used in Western Australia by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure and other planning and infrastructure agencies between 2001 and 2005, and considers whether the techniques could be applied to the development of health policy in Australia.
Deliberative processes were used in WA to address specific planning and infrastructure problems. Using deliberative techniques, community participants contributed to joint decision making and policy development. Outcomes from deliberative processes were seriously considered by the Minister and used to influence policy decisions. In many cases, the recommendations generated through deliberative processes were fully adopted by the Minister.
The experiences in WA demonstrate that deliberative engagement processes can be successfully implemented by government and can be used to guide policy. The techniques can be adapted to suit the context and issues experienced by a portfolio, and the skills required to conduct deliberative processes can be fostered amongst the portfolio's staff. Health policy makers may be able to learn from the experiences in WA, and adopt approaches to community engagement that allow for informed deliberation and debate in the community about the future of Australia's health system.
Following her review of health systems and structures Dwyer  suggested that there is a need to evaluate models of care for individuals with chronic diseases. Rehabilitation services aim to optimise the activity and participation of individuals with restrictions due to both acute and chronic conditions. Assessing and optimising the standard of these services is one method of assuring the quality of service delivered to these individuals. Knowledge of baseline standards allows evaluation of the impact of health care reforms in this area of need. The aim of this article is to compare the currently available rehabilitation service standards in Australia with those used in the USA and the UK.
The mixed method qualitative analysis performed on the three sets of standards demonstrated repeatability and convergence via the use of triangulation. Australian Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine (AFRM) standards were found to be consistent and concise, to provide definitions, and to cover the majority of clinically relevant issues to an extent similar to the other rehabilitation service standards. Inclusion of standards for business practices, the rehabilitation process for the person served, and outpatient and community-based rehabilitation services should be considered by the AFRM.
The AFRM standards are an appropriate way of assessing rehabilitation services in Australia. As suggested by other workers [2,3] there should be ongoing review and field testing of the standards to maximise the relevance and utilisation of the standards.
Despite national health objectives to reduce the incidence of obesity to 15% of the population by 2010, public health data suggest that the incidence of obesity in the United States is actually increasing. The U.S. recognizes that it (like other industrialized countries) faces an epidemic of obesity and related health conditions. How can U.S. jurisdictions (federal, state, and local) and the private sector respond to this epidemic through laws and policies that are directly or indirectly designed to address obesity? This article analyzes the theoretical and practical roles of law as a tool to curb obesity in the U.S. It proffers ten major legal themes to address obesity among the U.S. population, including: (1) use of incentives to encourage healthier behaviors; (2) use of financial disincentives to discourage unhealthy behaviors; (3) requirements to improve food quality, diversity, or availability; (4) compensation for injured persons seeking recourse; (5) restriction of access to unhealthy foods; (6) regulations aimed at influencing consumer choices; (7) control of marketing and advertising; (8) creation of communities that support healthy lifestyles; (9) physical education/fitness requirements; and (10) insurance coverage mandates.
The commercial drivers of the obesity epidemic are so influential that obesity can be considered a robust sign of commercial success – consumers are buying more food, more cars and more energy-saving machines. It is unlikely that these powerful economic forces will change sufficiently in response to consumer desires to eat less and move more or corporate desires to be more socially responsible. When the free market creates substantial population detriments and health inequalities, government policies are needed to change the ground rules in favour of population benefits.
Concerted action is needed from governments in four broad areas: provide leadership to set the agenda and show the way; advocate for a multi-sector response and establish the mechanisms for all sectors to engage and enhance action; develop and implement policies (including laws and regulations) to create healthier food and activity environments, and; secure increased and continued funding to reduce obesogenic environments and promote healthy eating and physical activity.
Policies, laws and regulations are often needed to drive the environmental and social changes that, eventually, will have a sustainable impact on reducing obesity. An 'obesity impact assessment' on legislation such as public liability, urban planning, transport, food safety, agriculture, and trade may identify 'rules' which contribute to obesogenic environments. In other areas, such as marketing to children, school food, and taxes/levies, there may be opportunities for regulations to actively support obesity prevention. Legislation in other areas such as to reduce climate change may also contribute to obesity prevention ('stealth interventions'). A political willingness to use policy instruments to drive change will probably be an early hallmark of successful obesity prevention.
The rapid rise in rates of overweight and obesity among adults and children in Australia and New Zealand has intensified debate about the most effective policies for obesity prevention. Law has much to contribute to this policy discussion, although its role is often misunderstood. The articles in this symposium follow on from a conference hosted in September 2006 by the Centre for Health Governance, Law & Ethics in the Faculty of Law, University of Sydney, titled: Obesity: should there be a law against it? In different ways, these articles provide a variety of perspectives on regulatory responses to obesity, including theoretical justifications for a legal approach, conceptual models that assist in making sense of law's role, as well as specific legal strategies for obesity prevention in various settings.
This article provides a conceptual framework for thinking about the role of law in responding to population weight gain in Australia. Part 1 focuses on two core questions. Firstly, in pursuing the aim of weight reduction at the population level, what should law be trying to influence? The challenge here is to identify a model of the determinants of obesity that is adequate for legal purposes and that illustrates the entry points where law could best be used as an instrument of public health policy. Secondly, what kinds of strategies and tools can law offer to obesity prevention? The challenge here is to identify a model of law that captures the variety of contributions law is capable of making, at different levels of government, and across different legal systems.
In Part 1 of the article, I argue that although law can intervene at a number of levels, the most important opportunities lie in seeking to influence the social, economic and environmental influences that shape patterns of eating and nutrition across the population as a whole. Only policies that impact broadly across the population can be expected to influence the weight distribution curve that has shifted relentlessly to the right in recent decades. Part 2 of the article builds on this analysis by offering a critical review of selected legal strategies for healthier nutrition and obesity prevention.
As obesity prevention becomes an increasing health priority in many countries, including Australia and New Zealand, the challenge that governments are now facing is how to adopt a systematic policy approach to increase healthy eating and regular physical activity. This article sets out a structure for systematically identifying areas for obesity prevention policy action across the food system and full range of physical activity environments. Areas amenable to policy intervention can be systematically identified by considering policy opportunities for each level of governance (local, state, national, international and organisational) in each sector of the food system (primary production, food processing, distribution, marketing, retail, catering and food service) and each sector that influences physical activity environments (infrastructure and planning, education, employment, transport, sport and recreation). Analysis grids are used to illustrate, in a structured fashion, the broad array of areas amenable to legal and regulatory intervention across all levels of governance and all relevant sectors. In the Australian context, potential regulatory policy intervention areas are widespread throughout the food system, e.g., land-use zoning (primary production within local government), food safety (food processing within state government), food labelling (retail within national government). Policy areas for influencing physical activity are predominantly local and state government responsibilities including, for example, walking and cycling environments (infrastructure and planning sector) and physical activity education in schools (education sector). The analysis structure presented in this article provides a tool to systematically identify policy gaps, barriers and opportunities for obesity prevention, as part of the process of developing and implementing a comprehensive obesity prevention strategy. It also serves to highlight the need for a coordinated approach to policy development and implementation across all levels of government in order to ensure complementary policy action.
This article is the second in a two-part review of law's possible role in a regulatory approach to healthier nutrition and obesity prevention in Australia. As discussed in Part 1, law can intervene in support of obesity prevention at a variety of levels: by engaging with the health care system, by targeting individual behaviours, and by seeking to influence the broader, socio-economic and environmental factors that influence patterns of behaviour across the population. Part 1 argued that the most important opportunities for law lie in seeking to enhance the effectiveness of a population health approach.
Part 2 of this article aims to provide a systematic review of the legal strategies that are most likely to emerge, or are worth considering, as part of a suite of policies designed to prevent population weight gain and, more generally, healthier nutrition. While the impact of any one intervention may be modest, their cumulative impact could be significant and could also create the conditions for more effective public education campaigns. This article addresses the key contenders, with particular reference to Australia and the United States.
Based upon a review of articles published in Australia's major newspapers over the period January 2001 to December 2005, a case study approach has been used to investigate why, when compared with other small business operators, including medical specialists, Australian governments have appeared reluctant to protect the economic viability of the businesses of self-employed midwives. Theories of agenda setting and structuralism have been used to explore that inequity. What has emerged is a picture of the complex of factors that may have operated, and may be continuing to operate, to shape the policy agenda and thus prevent solutions to the insurance problems of self-employed midwives being found.
Governments are increasingly introducing performance management systems to improve the quality and outcomes of health care. Two types of approaches have been described: assurance systems that use summative information for external accountability and internally driven systems that use formative information for continuous quality improvement. Australia recently introduced a National Quality and Performance System (NQPS) for Divisions of General Practice that has the dual purposes of increasing accountability and improving performance. In this article, we ask whether the framework can deliver on its objectives for achieving accountability and fostering performance improvement. We examine the system in terms of four factors identified in a recent systematic review of indicator systems known to improve their use. These are: involving stakeholders in development; having clear objectives; approach to data collection and analysis including using 'soft data' to aid interpretation; and feeding back information.
We found that early consultative processes influenced system development. The system promotes the collection of performance information against defined program objectives. Data includes a mix of qualitative and quantitative indicators that are fitted to a conceptual framework that facilitates an approach to performance assessment that could underpin continuous quality improvement at the Division level. Feedback of information to support the development of quality improvement activities has not been fully developed.
The system currently has elements that, with further development, could support a more continuous quality improvement or assurance based approach. Careful consideration needs to be given to the development of methods for analysis and review of performance indicators, performance assessment and engagement with consumers. The partnership arrangement that supported early development could be expected to serve as an important vehicle for further development.
Medical migration sees the providers of medical services (in particular medical practitioners) moving from one region or country to another. This creates problems for the provision of public health and medical services and poses challenges for laws in the nation state and for laws in the global community.
There exists a global shortage of healthcare professionals. Nation states and health rights movements have been both responsible for, and responsive to, this global community shortage through a variety of health policy, regulation and legislation which directly affects the migration of medical providers. The microcosm responses adopted by individual nation states, such as Australia, to this workforce shortage further impact on the global workforce shortage through active recruitment of overseas-trained healthcare professionals. "Push" and "pull" factors exist which encourage medical migration of healthcare professionals. A nation state's approach to health policy, regulation and legislation dramatically helps to create these "push factors" and "pull factors". A co-ordinated global response is required with individual nation states being cognisant of the impact of their health policy, regulations and legislation on the global community through the medical migration of healthcare professionals.
There are several innovative service delivery models in the United States (US) relevant to long-term care policy development and implementation in New Zealand. An especially fruitful source of innovation has been the culture change movement, which originated in the US but has begun to spread to New Zealand and other OECD countries. The culture change philosophy requires that providers respond to the values, preferences, and needs of care recipients. It also requires devolving authority to direct care workers who know their clients best, in addition to transitioning from sterile 'clinical' settings to more homelike environments. New Zealand has a more favourable policy context for improving long-term care than the US. Thus, it is critical that it build upon these short term advantages to promote further dissemination of the culture change ethos, thereby placing caregivers in a better position to meet current care challenges, not to mention those posed by growth in the elderly population ahead.
Indigenous Australians have significantly poorer status on a large range of health, educational and socioeconomic measures and successive Australian governments at state and federal level have committed to redressing these disparities. Despite this, improvements in Aboriginal health status have been modest, and Australia has much greater disparities in the health of its Indigenous people compared to countries that share a history characterised by colonisation and the dispossession of indigenous populations such as New Zealand, Canada and the United States of America. Efforts at policy and planning must ultimately be translated into practical strategies. This article outlines an approach that was effective in Western Australia in increasing the engagement and concern of Aboriginal people about high rates of sexually transmissible infections and sexual health issues. Many aspects of the approach are relevant for other health issues.
The complexity of Indigenous sexual health necessitates inter-agency and cross-governmental collaboration, in addition to Aboriginal leadership, accurate data, and community support. A recent approach covering all these areas is described. This has resulted in Aboriginal sexual health being more actively discussed within Aboriginal health settings than it once was and additional resources for Indigenous sexual health being available, with better communication and partnership across different health service providers and sectors. The valuable lessons in capacity building, collaboration and community engagement are readily transferable to other health issues, and may be useful for other health professionals working in the challenging area of Aboriginal health.
Health service planners and providers grapple with achieving Aboriginal ownership and leadership regarding their particular health issue, despite sincere concern and commitment to addressing Aboriginal health issues. This highlights the need to secure genuine Aboriginal engagement. Building capacity that enables Indigenous people and communities to fulfill their own goals is a long-term strategy and requires sustained commitment, but we argue is a prerequisite for better Indigenous health outcomes.
Access to "high cost medicines" through Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) is tightly regulated. It is inherently difficult to apply any criteria-based system of control in a way that provides a fair balance between efficient use of limited resources for community needs and equitable individual access to care. We suggest, in relation to very high cost medicines, that the present arrangements be re-considered in order to overcome potential inequities. The biological agents for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis are used as an example by which to discuss the ethical issues associated with the current scheme. Consideration of ethical aspects of the PBS and similar programs is important in order to achieve the fairest outcomes for individual patients, as well as for the community.