Primary health care

Our health care system faces significant challenges to continue providing safe, effective and affordable health care to the community.

Primary health care and primary care: what’s the difference?

Primary care is generally the first point of contact people have with the health system. It relates to the treatment of non-admitted patients in the community. It usually focuses on early diagnosis and timely, effective treatment, often delivered by a GP in partnership with other health care providers.

Primary health care is a broader term. According to the World Health Organization, primary health care addresses the majority of a person’s health needs throughout their lifetime. This includes physical, mental and social wellbeing and it is people-centred rather than disease-centred. Primary health care is a whole-of-society approach that includes health promotion, disease prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care.

Primary health care in north western Melbourne

We are fortunate to have many world-class health services in our region, but there remain substantial pockets where access to even basic health services is limited. Even where services are available, they are often poorly integrated, making the system harder to navigate and meaning some people miss out on receiving the care they need.

Our role is to improve coordination and communication between existing services, encourage and support new and expanded services in areas of need, and recast the health system to be centered around the needs of the person, rather than the requirements of health services.

Health system reform is being driven by all levels of government and from within many large health organisations. There is a strong focus on the importance of the primary health sector to meet challenges such as rising rates of chronic disease, an ageing population and supporting healthier life choices.

Person-centred care is key to current reform efforts, looking to improve individual and community health outcomes through better coordination of services around a person’s needs and preferences.