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Sustainable Population Health: A Pressing Priority for Community Wellbeing

  • Year: 2002
  • Author: Harvey, Peter
  • Journal Name: Environmental Health
  • Journal Number: Vol. 2, No. 3
  • Country: Australia
  • State/Region: South Australia

Recent developments in primary health care, preventive care, early intervention programs, population health constructs and coordinated care trials in Australia have explored the idea of changing our emphasis in health care from responsive acute care to more integrated, whole population community wellbeing management. This idea accepts that much illness and even trauma experienced by individuals in our communities can be prevented, mitigated or managed in a more constructive and positive manner than has previously been the case. Much disabling illness need not occur at all and can be avoided through better community based management models, education programs, and lifestyle changes that contribute to more healthy communities. As in the wider business world, we are becoming more cognisant of the fact that prevention is not only an appealing idea in terms of health outcomes and quality of life, but that it is good for business also. It can moderate demand for costly health care, assist consumers to understand how to live healthier and fulfilling lives and overall help to sustain a much more dynamic community. This article, based on work in a rural health service in South Australia, points to some elements of sustainable primary care that appear to have potential to take us where we need to go. It asks whether we have the capacity and the will to make the necessary investment in sustainability to ensure our future or whether we are to remain bound in a reactionary model of health care rather than considering the impact of wider social and physical environments as part of the overall community health equation.

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