Transformation Planned For Health Care

A James Cook University researcher plans to transform health workforce policy and planning to address a looming health system crisis.

Stephanie Topp, who is a JCU Professor in the College of Public Health Medical and Veterinary Sciences, has been granted nearly $1.5 million by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to tackle these issues over the next five years.

Professor Topp’s grant proposal focuses on three interconnected areas within health workforce (HWF) policy.

”The three focus areas of the study will include understanding the current supply, distribution, and performance of the health workforce, investigating the political and economic forces shaping policy in these areas, and designing strategies to overcome organisational barriers hindering effective implementation of evidence based HWF policy,” Professor Topp said.

“Our aim is to develop a unique policy framework that adequately reflects the complex and federalised nature of Australia’s health system, and help guide more equitable health workforce policy planning, design and implementation across the country.

”There is an urgent need for such a framework given the pronounced geographic, racial and gender inequalities. When compared to major cities, regional, rural and remote areas experience 1.4-fold more disease and 2.5-fold greater injury burden yet have nearly 50 per cent fewer health professionals per capita.”

Professor Topp said the project will support a series of studies designed to illuminate the multiple, often overlapping and duplicated areas that are sometimes overlooked when developing federal and state health workforce policy.

”By evaluating the political economy that shapes these, we hope the research will then pave the way for generating a streamlined, equity-focused framework to guide policy makers and planners when making decisions relevant to their jurisdiction,” she said.

Professor Topp’s submission was just one of 34 applications across the country funded in the EL2 category in the 2024 NHRMC Investigator Grant round.

The funding will run for five years with work commencing in 2025.

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