The HealthANSWERS (ACT and NSW Education, Research and Service) Partnership involves the geographically proximate southern NSW and ACT/Capital regions that have traditionally interacted in cross-referrals, medical education and GP coordination. With our strengths in rural and small city communal healthcare, we now seek formal accreditation as a Centre for Innovation in Regional Health. As envisaged by this important new NHMRC initiative, creation of the HealthANSWERS Partnership will serve as the incubator and driver of research to improve the health of Australians in rural, regional and remote Australia. The particular emphasis will be on primary care/specialist communication, preventive healthcare and early intervention to improve disease outcomes.
The region for the Health Partnership incorporates the ACT, and regional NSW in southern NSW. This includes three NSW Local Health Districts (Shoalhaven/Illawarra, Murrumbidgee and Southern NSW), and three PHNs (Murrumbidgee, COORDINARE, and Capital): approximately 1.2 million people, many of whom travel regularly and across borders for health care.
Members of the partnership
While clinically relevant research will generate new knowledge, it is only with industry partners that this knowledge can be translated and innovations undertaken in practice to improve health care outcomes for Australians.
Our health sector partners are ACT Health Directorate, ACT Ambulance, Calvary Hospital Bruce ACT, Canberra Health Services, Capital Primary Health Network, Health Care Consumers Association, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, Katungul Aboriginal Corporation Regional Medical and Community Service, Murrumbidgee Local Health District, Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network, SENSW Primary Health Network, South Coast Medical Service Aboriginal Corporation and Southern Local Health District.
Our industry partners are Canberra Innovation Network, Marie Stopes Australia, Medcast Pty Ltd, NPS Medicinewise, Peoplecare Health Ltd, Telstra Health and Thrivor Pty Ltd.
Academic partners already interact extensively with these service networks, and include the Australian National University, CSIRO Health and Biosecurity, University of Canberra and University of Wollongong.
What our partnership will do
The HealthANSWERS Partnership will focus particularly on health systems research, drawing together the strong translational knowledge platforms in the university partners in the areas that link the operation of primary care with specialist knowledge and expertise in prevention and early intervention of common chronic diseases. We will map health eco-systems and population health planning, policy translation, preventive health (especially for common cancers and obesity complications), precision medicine, health economics, data analytics for health decision making, health communications research, and AI systems.
The partnership is underpinned by a philosophy that rural and regional Australia, under principles of equity and logistics of health economics, must be included in new developments in medicine and medical practice. In particular, effective preventive health care and best standards of early intervention can, with imaginative planning and strategic/efficient links be made to operate in cities, smaller towns, city-proximate and remote urban communities. Key systems areas to improve the translational service platforms will be strengthening primary care, integrating care better from primary to tertiary care, cross-disciplinary models of care, enhanced remote service delivery for specialist services, and preventive care in and for communities.
Health sector partners have identified the following areas for focused initiatives of importance to them:
- Mental health care and community support initiatives
- Multi-morbid illness, including psychological co-morbidity
- Cancer prevention and care: particularly colorectal and liver cancer
- End of life care
The health partnership has already begun to deliver translational research in many of these clinical areas. Formal accreditation will enable us to expand and improve our ability to support direct service delivery in these areas through translating research; and to work with partners and communities to enhance our capacity to translate research into practice, and health service challenges into research.