An ageing population, high prevalence of people from low socio-economic backgrounds as well as a range of lifestyle and other risk factors are some of the key health challenges facing central Victoria.
Murray Primary Health Network chief executive officer Matt Jones said there were a range of health concerns facing the area covered by the network, which stretches from Mildura to Woodend and up to Albury-Wodonga.
“Across the whole catchment area, we have disproportionately high levels of people with low socio-economic status backgrounds and the evidence shows they have higher health care needs,” he said.
“We’ve also got an ageing population disproportionate to other areas of Australia and evidence-wise, we see that as we progress through life we require more health care.
“There are also lifestyle factors and risk factors such as high rates of obesity and alcohol and smoking rates in comparison to other parts of Australia.”
The Murray PHN has been operational since July this year. It’s one of 31 networks across Australia created to replace the former Medicare Local scheme with an eye to reducing fragmentation of primary health services.
Mr Jones said one of the network’s main aims was to improve communication and co-ordination between health care providers to improve patient outcomes. Too often, patient information was lost between providers, he said.
“It’s a characteristic of the Australian health system that there are a variety of health providers, commonwealth and state, and public and private, and the patient is having to tell their story a number of times,” he said.
Mr Jones said improving that transfer of information would be a “major enabler” of improving health outcomes for patients.
Areas of focus for the network include improving immunisation rates, reducing preventable hospital admissions, increasing the number of breast, bowel and cervical cancer screenings and improving mental health care access.