ALISON VERHOEVEN Chief Executive AHHA
Health equity, value-based health care and COVID-19
Welcome to the May 2020 issue of The Health
Health statistics tell a different story, however.
Advocate. Since our last issue, a lot has happened—
Some Australians, including Aboriginal and Torres
to say the very least. We, and the world, are now
Strait Islander people, people on low incomes and
living through the greatest challenge to our health
people living in rural areas have worse health and
for more than a century.
less access to healthcare services.
It’s often said that times of crisis, like the current COVID-19 pandemic, reveal the weaknesses in our current systems—we are presented with
The impact of health inequities has been starkly highlighted with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. People with chronic disease, experiencing
opportunities to learn and adapt so we are better
homelessness or sudden income loss, or who are
prepared next time, and not only for pandemics.
living in remote communities are all at greater risk,
Crises can also embolden governments to act
not only of COVID-19, but also potentially of poorer
quickly and decisively—as the Australian Government
long-term health as their living circumstances
has with the expansion of access to telehealth
deteriorate as a result of economic downturn.
services, expanding the roles of nurses and other
Our health system will inevitably undergo major
health professionals, and brokering a deal with
adjustments once the initial emergency response
private hospitals to join public hospitals in the
to COVID-19 has passed—but the changes being
made now, such as reforms to telehealth services
On the other hand, some weaknesses remain that we have known about, talked about and advocated about for some time, but to date are still in the ‘too hard’ basket. I would place equity and value in health in that basket. Universal healthcare, through Medicare, is a much-loved feature of our Australian way of life.
and workforce roles, have the potential to support greater equity and value in the longer term. In a recent Deeble Institute Issues Brief, Can value-based health care support health equity?, we explored equity in the context of value-based health care strategies and health care reforms currently being implemented or considered in Australia. We recommended factoring the social determinants
It’s built on equity principles—every Australian having
of health, such as housing, income and employment
equal access to quality healthcare based on medical
into our health policy decisions.
need, not the size of their wallets. 4
The Health Advocate • MAY 2020
We suggested renewed efforts to break