Social health and wellbeing – Southern Inland Health Initiative

“Health and wellbeing are profoundly shaped by our social and physical environments. Increasingly, it is recognised that health is more than a product of our genes or ‘luck’. Where we live, work and recreate can powerfully influence our life chances…we need to better understand how social contexts and social change shape health behaviours and illness experiences.”
McCluster Foundation

The Southern Inland Health Initiative is the largest investment into rural health care in Western Australia’s history, with more than half a billion dollars being delivered through the State Government’s Royalties for Regions program.

The initiative – which covers more than 100 separate towns and over 1 million square kilometres of the southern inland region – aims to change the way communities access and utilise their health services.

Significant funds have been allocated towards boosting the role of primary health care in regional communities.

This innovative approach to improving health outcomes will challenge the way many existing services work, with a focus on getting individuals, organisations and communities to work together to look at local solutions to health issues.

Primary health care is about patient-focused care, encouraging integration and collaboration between service providers, consumers and the community to address factors such as:

  • mental health
  • the health of the elderly
  • marginalised groups and Aboriginal people
  • child and maternal health.

What does social health and emotional wellbeing mean under the Southern Inland Health Initiative?

Social health and emotional wellbeing acknowledges the importance of promoting a positive mental outlook and preventing problems before they arise.

It also takes into account the physical, social, emotional and cultural wellbeing of individuals and their communities.

Addressing these issues will assist individuals in rural communities to improve their health; while reducing the demand on hospital-based services.

This underpins the Southern Inland Health Initiative’s approach to primary health care in providing services that support both the well and unwell, and that are supported by communities, within communities.

Mental health is an important component of primary health care under the Southern Inland Health Initiative, along with:

  • general practice
  • health promotion
  • early childhood
  • aged care services.

As outlined in the extract from the Mental Health Strategic Intent WACHS (April 2011):

“In general the prevalence of mental health conditions in rural and remote Australia has been estimated as equivalent to levels in major cities. However, rural Australians face greater challenges as a result of such conditions, due to both the difficulty of accessing the support needed for mental illness and to the greater visibility and stigma… due to factors such as financial uncertainty, social isolation, high levels of unemployment, poor access to housing, social and other services.”

The Southern Inland Health Initiative’s emphasis on social health and wellbeing aligns with national mental health priority areas, which include:

  • social inclusion and recovery
  • service access, coordination and continuity of care
  • accountability measuring and reporting success
  • prevention and early intervention
  • quality improvement and innovation.

The aim, under the initiative is to keep people well, active and engaged in their community, work and social environments. This may include:

  • partnership and collaboration with agencies and across sectors
  • community participation in health service planning and delivery
  • health literacy and system design to support informed decisions about health care
  • social determinants of health, including health promotion and illness prevention
  • a holistic and integrated multidisciplinary approach to health care
  • localised decision making and engagement, and evidence based practice by combining scientifically sound evidence, socially and culturally acceptable procedures and technology and by encouraging innovative practices.

What will the Southern Inland Health Initiative deliver?

The key elements to ensuring social health and wellbeing include:

  • effective linkages within and between services that provide coordination and integration of service delivery at a local level
  • community participation to make sure health services are based on local need
  • consideration of all levels of wellness
  • patient-centred care where there is a shared responsibility for patient outcomes.

The Southern Inland Health Initiative is delivering a greater focus on primary health care, including the Primary Care Integration Coordinators.

They are involved in:

  • encouraging cooperation, collaboration and coordination between services
  • making sure the integration of these services align with the more traditional hospital based services – both regional and tertiary.

Extensive planning for services has been held across the southern inland catchment. 

This planning has taken into account all aspects of service provision:

  • assessment
  • treatment
  • therapy
  • recovery. 

It has also taken into consideration that people or carers may choose to access health services from different providers, such as:

  • community groups
  • GP services
  • non-government organisations
  • mental health services
  • hospital
  • self-help or self-management of their condition.

The health services planning has helped to:

  • determine the full extent of the primary health care services needed in each community
  • scope services based on the future health needs of these communities. 

This has been an important process to identify gaps, plan for service delivery and clarify agency roles and responsibilities.

More information

Southern Inland Health Initiative

Email: southerninland@health.wa.gov.au

Produced by

WA Country Health Service