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15 Jul 2019

Family Doctor Week – July 21 to 27  


Professor Jeanette Ward, of Notre Dame University’s Nulungu Research Institute in Broome, WA, has a career focus on formulating public health policy – to help make better GPs. Here, Dr Ward explains her role in delivering good outcomes for family doctors and primary health.

“Perhaps I am not quite the typical example for Family Doctor Week. I am a medical specialist in systems, structures and population health.  

“What is my role in promoting high-quality general practice? First, I am accountable to many hundreds of thousands of patients, all of whom deserve an equitable, effective and responsive health system based on solid evidence and great policy.  

“Second, their health and wellbeing is critically dependent on the design of the overall health system, especially the quality of the primary health care they receive. Yet some people live where general practitioners are in short supply.

“When the foundation of primary health care in any given region is weak, the resources required to create, coordinate and perfect multidisciplinary cost-effective teamwork focussed on patient need is also in short supply. 

“These regions are easily identifiable by their population-based age-standardised rate of potentially preventable hospitalisations (PPHs). High PPH rates reveal a local system under stress. Tinkering with minor inputs is not going to work to change these rates.

“Third, when health policy is developed by an inattentive affluent and isolated political class afforded – by its very social circumstances – a paradoxical protection from the consequences of any poor policy decision inflicted on others, the economists call this a moral hazard. Ill-informed policy buries GPs in a quagmire of red tape, short-term thinking and marginal reforms.

“Once I realised the influence of policy and system design on health outcomes, I knew that public health medicine was the career direction for me. Just as my colleagues hold themselves professionally accountable for the advice they give and the decisions they make in collaborative patient management for individuals, I also aim to work as a public health physician (FAFPHM) to the high standards required by large populations.”



Published: 15 Jul 2019