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Addressing our communities' health needs

PHN launches Core Needs Assessment identifying region's health needs

The Core Needs Assessment 2022-25 (CNA) provides the basis of the PHN’s understanding of the health needs of people living in the region, including differences experienced by population groups. It is the product of an exhaustive research and consultation process by the PHN's Health Intelligence and Performance team and is used to inform the way it plans and commissions health services

The health needs and service gaps identified have been grouped under nine overarching themes including: Health and Wellbeing of First Nations People; Maternal, Child and Youth Health; Older Persons Health; Primary Mental Health Care and Suicide Prevention, and Health Workforce and Service Capacity.

Stakeholder and community consultation was an important process for the needs assessment. Two surveys were developed to capture the perceptions and viewpoints of the community and of stakeholders who work within the primary care sector or are partners of the PHN.

The ‘Have Your Say’ Stakeholder survey was distributed to the PHN’s networks of commissioned service providers, Aboriginal medical services, allied health networks and via the PHN’s General Practice newsletter. There were 108 responses to the stakeholder survey.

The ‘Have Your Say’ Community survey was distributed via PeopleBank, the PHN’s social media channels and through the networks of the Community Advisory Committees. There were 236 responses to the community survey.

Both groups identified mental health and suicide prevention as the largest overall health concern facing the community. The second overall health concern as identified by both groups was alcohol and drug use.

The results of the CNA will be used as a decision making and prioritisation tool that ensures all PHN work, projects and commitments are addressing the region’s health needs.

Winter is Coming

The PHN launched its first consumer facing campaign this year, focusing on awareness and preparedness for the influenza/COVID-19 combination season expected to occur throughout winter 2022. The campaign leveraged off the highly popular television series Game of Thrones, being titled, Winter Is Coming.

The purpose of the campaign was to ask people if they were ‘Winter Ready’ and featured a variety of tools promoted through numerous channels.

The key messages of the campaign were:

  1. Be prepared (winter-ready kit)  
  2. Be armed (vaxed), flu shot/booster timings, high-risk/vaccination 
  3. Be your own champion - basic infection control and know your options for after-hours care. 

The consumer campaign was housed on a dedicated consumer microsite which featured tabs for each of the key messages. Radio ads were produced and aired across popular local stations. Prominent local general practitioners (GPs) were recruited to film short ads which were run through social media, a paid social campaign ran across the region and general practices were provided posters and flyers with QR codes linking to the campaign microsite.

A health professionals toolkit was also developed which featured health pathways, vaccine and other advice relevant when treating patients with influenza.

The campaign was well received with over 1,000 community members visiting the microsite over the three-month period.

Stakeholder engagement

In developing and implementing projects that address the health needs of our diverse communities, the PHN is informed and guided by its Board, Community Advisory Committees and Clinical Councils. The members of each group reside and work in all areas of the PHN region and provide a much-valued perspective on local primary health care needs. Our groups continued to inform the PHN’s COVID-19 response and communications as the evolving pandemic created new priorities and concerns.

The PHN’s Peoplebank community engagement website provides an online platform through which stakeholders can engage with the PHN’s projects and initiatives. Adopted in 2016 as a consultation tool, it offers communities and individuals the opportunity to participate in conversations about improving local health outcomes across the region. During 2021-22 the site had more than 153,000 visits and served a key role in enabling communities and organisations to access funding support from the several grants programs offered during the period.

Price benchmarking identifies service value

The PHN made significant advances in the 2021/22 financial year to better understand the value of commissioned services. This has included a series of price benchmarking exercises, where the unit price of services was measured against other services within the program, and also against similar external services.

Through an initial engagement with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the PHN was able to benchmark the unit price of Primary Mental Health Services and Youth Complex Services with the National Disability Service price schedule, Workers Compensation price schedules, the Medicare Benefits Scheme and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

This provided valuable insights that continue to support the PHN’s maturity as a healthcare commissioner. It has provided a framework for assessing whether services are delivering value for money while also informing service design and contract development, tender evaluations and contract negotiations.

Other opportunities for the PHN include:

  • Improving data quality and consistency through ongoing education and support
  • Redesigning data collection and reporting to consider other relevant data points
  • Focusing on client experience as a measure of quality
  • Considering enhanced and systematic data collation process
  • Benchmarking against other Primary Health Networks
  • Advocating to the Australian Government for further program enhancements and additional funding
  • Strengthening relationships with our service delivery partners to share the outcomes and insights from the exercises.

Extensive capacity building was also an element of the initial exercises which has given the PHN the opportunity to replicate the exercises internally to compare the unit price of each of the programs commissioned.

Opening of headspace Taree

headspace Taree opened its doors in April 2022, providing a vital new support service for young people in the area. Key figures who successfully advocated for the needs of the Taree community on a state and federal level met to open the centre.

The opening of headspace Taree was the culmination of effective collaboration between all levels of government, the local community and a number of stakeholders. The service removes barriers including the cost and time associated with travel for young people wishing to access mental health services, and reinforces the PHN’s commitment to improving regional and rural health.

The opening of the headspace centre demonstrated the increased awareness and investment in youth mental health, which is crucial to supporting young people experiencing depression, substance abuse and other mental health issues, particularly in regional areas where access to services can be difficult. headspace Taree will provide young people a safe and welcoming space to connect with youth health professionals to support their mental health needs.

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