Reframing Primary Health Care for Older Australians

Thursday, 28 July 2016

On 21 July 2016, the Alliance presented at a forum hosted by the Council on the Ageing (COTA) to explore the Reframing of Primary Health Care for Older Australians.  The forum focused on the current delivery of primary care services to older Australians and how this can be improved.

The audience was challenged to let go of the view that an ageing population is associated with the use of more health care services.  Instead, the debate focused on the need to support more years of good health and wellbeing.  By shifting the investment to maintaining good health, managing chronic conditions and providing well-coordinated primary care, older Australians can maintain independence and continue to contribute to their families and communities.

The Alliance CEO, Kim Webber was part of a panel addressing the primary care needs of specific populations of older Australians.  Discussions focused on the challenge to provide services to people where workforce shortages mean that health care services can be located far from home.  Travelling for care dislocates older people from their communities and can lead to older rural Australians relocating to regional centres.

Dr John Beard, Director of the Ageing at the World Health Organization,  gave an impassioned presentation highlighting the importance of good health in older years.  He asked that we refer to “ageing well” rather than “ successful ageing”  as this suggests that “unsuccessful ageing” is possible and that it is a competitive process.  Many other exceptional speakers presented over the course of the day including Professor Diane Gibson, Dean of the Faculty of Health, University of Canberra and Dr Stephen Duckett from the Grattan Institute

Finally, we were reminded that primary health care is not the only requirement for ageing well – but that supportive communities, social connectedness and the ability to make valuable contributions to society are also vital for older Australians.