Primary health services help keep people healthy, assisting them to stay well and out of hospital and allowing them to return home with support – or in the case of aged care – live at home for as long as possible.
The Southern Inland Health Initiative is the largest investment into rural health care in Western Australia’s history, delivering more than half a billion dollars of funding through the State Government’s Royalties for Regions program.
The initiative – which covers a large number of communities in the southern inland region – champions change, reform and improvement across the health system.
This is clearly demonstrated by health promotion being part of focus of the initiative’s primary health care model, to facilitate a long term, sustainable change in the health of these communities.
Health promotion plays an important role in improving the health of individuals and whole communities by helping to prevent premature progression towards chronic disease and illness.
What will this mean for communities in the southern inland region?
Health promotion places a strong focus on an integrated, coordinated approach to health care that spans:
- community organisations.
Building partnerships in this way allows communities to work together on agreed local health issues from a local perspective, rather than implementing a one size fits all approach.
Under the initiative, health promotion is modelled on the Ottawa Charter (Canada, 1986), which is based on 5 guiding principles:
- developing personal skills – assisting people to develop specific skills to change behaviours and to access information and support
- creating supportive environments – improving social, political, economic and physical environments for people
- strengthening community action – drawing on existing resources to empower people, groups and families to set and realise their visions for a healthy community
- reorienting health services – making changes to the way health services are delivered
- building health public policy – promoting the capacity of organisations and groups to change their environment to be more conducive to health.
This builds strongly on the initiative’s commitment to strengthening:
- individuals by identifying people at increased risk of poorer health outcomes reducing social isolation, providing opportunities for individuals to achieve a better health status through education, and the reduction of personal health risk factors by advocating for locally provided health services.
- organisations by creating sustainable infrastructure for health promotion through policy, workforce development and governance, by working in partnership with other services across different sectors to promote the integration and sharing of resources and the re-orientation of existing services to match community needs.
- communities by reducing social isolation, identifying opportunities to integrate services at community accessible locations and by establishing linked community networks that will promote health action through access to up-to-date information at state and national levels.
The initiative takes into account where people and community services are currently at, in order to:
- identify and prioritise health issues
- plan health promotion strategies that include and acknowledge existing services and agency efforts.
This may include using peer educators in communities to communicate health promotion messages, for example:
- identifying the local cultural competency needs of Aboriginal groups in the design of programs
- considering local community barriers to health such as travel and resource-stretched services.
How is the initiative delivering health promotion to communities?
Extensive planning for services has been held across the southern inland catchment to look at existing services and how these meet community need – both now and in the future.
The services plans will be taken into account, along with other sources, to make sure health promotion strategies are relevant and match community need.
In the long term, health promotion relies on multiple partnerships at all stages of wellness and ill-health, including:
- private sector
- not-for-profit organisations
- the community.
Health promotion works well when people care together about an issue or a situation.
For communities in the southern inland catchment, it allows organisations to map out services and identify overlaps or gaps.
It also takes into account the social determinants of health that play an even greater role than lifestyle factors in any individual’s health.
Part of the Initiative’s health promotion strategy is to encourage a proactive change in communities by recognising these barriers are real world situations for people – particularly those living in rural and regional areas.
Health promotion utilises both targeted and universal strategies.
Targeted strategies are aimed at specific individuals and groups, and may include things such as an ear health promotion program for Aboriginal communities.
A universal strategy is a whole of population strategy which may include working with local government to upgrade community parks to encourage greater physical activity.
Telehealth is becoming a significant tool for health promotion. It assists:
- individuals to link with health service providers to access health information and education
- organisations to network and share strategies to become more prevention focused
- communities with tools such as social marketing strategies for greater road awareness.
Primary care integration coordinators – based in Northam, Merredin, Katanning and Narrogin – have worked cooperatively with a range of stakeholders to identify local health needs and support the embedding of health promotion in all community and health funded services.
Southern Inland Health Initiative
WA Country Health Service