Spotlight on health at 2020

There were some interesting and innovative ideas about health raised at Kevin Rudd’s 2020 Summit but workforce issues and the way health is funded remain key problems to be addressed.

The Australia 2020 Summit was ‘designed to harness the best ideas from across the nation and apply them to the challenges before us, to create a better Australia for all of us,’ said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

With this in mind, health, with its recurrent crises and unmet challenges, was an important stream of discussion.

The importance of healthy lifestyles, health promotion and disease prevention were recurring themes raised at the summit, according to Ged Kearney, Federal Secretary of the ANF.

Ged said she was impressed by the energy, goodwill and sense of hope that permeated the Summit.

‘A whole new dialogue seems to have opened up in Australia, which was missing for more than a decade. Nurses have a greater opportunity to influence health policy and more effectively advocate on behalf of patients in this climate,’ she said.

Ged said there was a clear understanding from participants at the summit that nurses carry the system and there is a need to move the focus away from an illness model towards a multidisciplinary model.

‘While no promises were made at the summit, I was really pleased to be part of a discussion around breaking down legislative and professional barriers to advancing the role of nurse practitioners, and other health professionals, as an essential part of workforce reform,’ she said.

‘Removing barriers to allow nurse practitioners to be able to access the PBS and order diagnostic procedures is not rocket science. It is just plain common sense. Not only will it greatly improve health care delivery, it will also provide a more attractive career path and greater job satisfaction for nurses.’

Ged said that while the summit was very worthwhile and there was a real desire for constructive change, there were some key pieces in the health jigsaw that were outside the brief of the summit.

‘Workforce shortages and the way health is funded remain fundamental problems that need to be addressed if we are to fix our health system,’ she said.

Top health ideas from the 2020 summit

  • Create a national preventative health agency funded by taxes on products with a high social cost, such as alcohol, cigarettes and junk food.
  • Create a healthbook (like Facebook) for Australians to take greater ownership of their health information and electronically share it with people they trust – their doctor, nurse or family members.
  • Introduce health literacy programs such as universal first aid training eg. all Australian kids would have done First Aid, trained by volunteers.
  • Establish a Health Equalities Commission with a focus on Indigenous and other disadvantaged communities.
  • Set up a health ASEAN – a collaborative regional group to focus on emerging infectious diseases like bird flu.
  • Rethink the shape of the medical workforce – creating a self-sufficient and flexible medical workforce with competence-based training for accreditation.