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Flipping the Iceberg

Imagine if we didn’t need as many facilities and medical services to treat the sick – Imagine if the overall health of our community improved.

If Governments stopped focusing on the ‘sexy’ issues, then this could well be a reality. The current states of health within the Great South Coast are very concerning, yet Governments continue to support a health system that is set up to treat disease. Only 5% of funding is directed towards Preventative Health measures, i.e. keeping healthy people healthy, while the remaining 95% is spent on treating the sick.

We need to start addressing patients’ ‘upstream’ social needs to improve their health and reduce costs ‘downstream’. Lynda Smith, Population Health Coordinator at South West Primary Care Partnership, introduced a resource to do just that – the social determinants of health. While medical care can prolong survival and improve prognosis after some serious diseases, more important for the health of the population as a whole are the social and economic conditions that make people ill and in need of medical care in the first place.

Taking a holistic approach is understandably complex, and early adopters shoulder the burden of proof when it comes to measuring its impact. However, on paper, it’s a no brainer. We are currently focusing on the tip of the ‘health iceberg’ (the states of health) instead of focusing on what lies beneath the surface (the underlying conditions affecting physical health and longevity). Why are we not flipping the iceberg, and using our funding more efficiently?

Sophie Baulch , 2019 Participant

Thank you to our speakers Lynda Smith, Population Health Coordinator South West Primary Care Partnership , Chris Healey, Research Fellow/Clinical Simulation Educator Deakin Rural Health Warrnambool and Darren Dorey, Peer Support, South West Health Care.

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