Resources boost needed for GPs to lead preventive health revolution
PRICE hikes on cigarettes and alcohol to improve population health have won broad support from the medical profession, but GP groups and academics say doctors will need far more support to take on preventive health.
Released just one day after the draft National Primary Health Care Strategy, the 307-page National Preventative Health Strategy outlines a series of measures to tackle illness associated with obesity, alcohol and smoking.
While much of the strategy focuses on population-wide health measures, GPs have also been asked to take a greater role in preventive health and have been charged with identifying people at risk of developing chronic diseases and referring them on to team care.
AMA vice-president Dr Steve Hambleton said GPs were already undertaking this work, but under-resourcing had hampered progress.
“GPs have been doing [preventive health] for years. The reason that we talk about it now is that there has been a systematic under-investment [in general practice],” he said.
Professor Jeff Richardson, foundation director of Monash University’s centre for health economics, said while GPs were best placed to push the preventive health agenda, they would need more financial support to do so.
“General practitioners will be excellent to do this because they have respect [from the community] and everyone goes to their GP,” he said. “[However] there will have to be more incentives.”
His call was welcomed by Professor Rob Moodie, chair of global health at the University of Melbourne’s Nossal Institute for Global Health and chair of the taskforce that drew up the strategy.
“We realise the role of GPs, and the time constraints, and [that] we’re not rewarding them for being involved in prevention – so we’re working toward that.”
Population health proposals
- 30-pack of cigarettes to cost $20 within three years, as part of efforts to have 90% of population non-smokers by 2020.
- Lift alcohol tax and pricing arrangements to discourage harmful drinking.
- Axe all junk-food and drink marketing on TV before 9 pm by 2013 and phase out junk-food cross-promotional marketing and toy giveaways.
- Food vouchers to low-income families to access fresh, healthy produce.