If the healthcare system is to deal with deaths that could have been avoided, practitioners will need to drop the idea more hospital beds and advanced care provide the answer, a leading health expert says.
Regional communities’ health outcomes are falling behind cities, with higher levels of deaths that could have been prevented if treated far earlier or avoided altogether, Grattan Institute health program director Stephen Duckett says.
It is instead time to better address broader issues driving bad health.
That is one point Dr Duckett is preparing to deliver in a wide-ranging speech during Monday’s Violet Marshman Oration in Bendigo.
His talk will present new data disentangling the difference between rural and metropolitan areas as well as outline what should be done and by whom.
Researchers have known for a long time that health in regional Australia is worse than in metropolitan areas, Dr Duckett said, but issues persist.
Part of the solution should be ramping up the work health care professionals do to prevent problems, he said. Think addressing tobacco use to prevent lung cancer.
“Local hospitals, for example, especially in smaller towns outside Bendigo, have to consider it part of their job to … work with the community to try and address the isolation, the unemployment, the mental health issues and so on, with local solutions and innovations,” Dr Duckett said.
Some hospitals are already doing that, but not all.
“Often we’ve seen the job of a hospital CEO as just managing that area the hospital sits. Now we are saying to them ‘you’ve got to think much, much more broadly, think outside the hospital walls and take a role in improving the health of your community’,” Dr Duckett said.
The free Violet Marshman Oration takes place Monday from 5.30pm at La Trobe University’s Bendigo campus. It is named after the late Violet Vines Marshman, who devoted much of her life to improving the health of those in regional and rural Victoria.
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