AMA Calls Out Sick System On Chronic Conditions

The Australian Medical Association is urging action on the prevention and management of chronic conditions in Australia.

The AMA has called for a coordinated policy approach and cross jurisdiction funding for chronic disease, in its response to the Department of Health and Aged Care’s consultation on a new National Strategic Framework for Chronic Conditions.

“Chronic illnesses are the leading cause of illness, disability, and death in Australia; with almost half of all Australians living with at least one chronic disease, and one in five living with two or more chronic conditions,” AMA President Professor Steve Robson said.

“Long-term commitment and sustainable funding models are urgently needed, with a focus on real solutions that improve quality of life for those who are suffering,” Professor Robson said.

Chronic conditions include arthritis, asthma, back pain, cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, mental health conditions and osteoporosis.

“The refresh of the National Strategic Framework must become a priority for all governments in Australia,” Professor Robson said.

“Chronic conditions are placing an enormous strain on the healthcare system through increased costs and potentially preventable hospital admissions. We know prevention is much more than spending.”

In its submission, the AMA is calling for improved arrangements to support GP led well-coordinated multidisciplinary care for patients with chronic and complex disease.

“There is opportunity to build on MyMedicare to help streamline care, and to improve the management of patients with chronic conditions,” Professor Robson said.

“GPs are best placed to look holistically at patients but need support in leading a multidisciplinary approach to care, which is often frustrated by the complexity of the health system.

“People with a chronic disease need top notch medical care from their doctor and also the involvement of a team with nurses, allied health and other supports. That team needs to be well connected, resourced and to truly work together.

“We need more efficient arrangements that support the provision of well-coordinated multidisciplinary care for patients with chronic and complex disease.

“The goal of the next National Strategic Framework should be to ensure that Australians get the treatment they need no matter where they live or who they are – one that will serve Australians, doctors and saves lives.”

Along with treating disease and risk factors, the AMA highlighted the impact of underlying social determinants of health in contributing to chronic disease.

The AMA highlights that rates of chronic conditions and overall poorer health outcomes are far higher in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples, those experiencing socio-economic disadvantage, people in rural and remote areas and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

“All Australians deserve access to their usual doctor to prevent chronic disease and treat early signs,” Professor Robson said.

“We know the fixes for a sick system with chronic problems ― we just need to make the investment.

“Our health is not a cost to be managed, but an investment to be made. The lack of investment in prevention of chronic disease has resulted in a healthcare system that responds to poor health outcomes rather than actively preventing them.”

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