AITHM James Cook University


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01 March 2022

A team of researchers from the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine at JCU are undertaking a large project which aims to improve the responsiveness and effectiveness of health services to North Queenslanders, and share learnings with partners across Northern Australia.

JCU’s Professor for Health Systems Strengthening and the Principal Investigator Professor Sarah Larkins said through the Integrating Health Care Planning Project the team aimed to identify community health needs, and gaps and duplication in services, which would help communities redesign existing models of care.

The project follows on from their previous work undertaken across two Northern Australian states and the Northern Territory, which showed disparity in the organisation and delivery of Northern Australia’s health services.

“We found health systems in the North were struggling to meet the needs of Northern Australia’s 1.3 million residents, with poorly targeted resources and ill-suited funding models.” Professor Larkins said.

“Investing in the health workforce and related improvement in models of care can be a strong economic driver for prosperity; and as we know, a healthy community is a necessary pre-requisite for economic development.

This project provides a unique opportunity to unite health industry partners and engage with local communities to improve efficiencies and effectiveness in service planning and delivery, with interested partners also in the Northern Territory and Northern Western Australia.”

JCU data manager and senior researcher Dr Karen Johnston is using an ArcGIS mapping tool, to assist in collating and visualising a huge range of information from various sources  in nine months.

The information she is gathering will offer a visual map to help the team towards developing ways to formulate change proposals, for the benefit of communities.

“Data that helps us understand communities, and their health needs and services that deliver care, tend to be scattered around the place, Dr Johnston said.

 “We are bringing this data together to enable people working in communities and services, to begin planning for their local area to improve responsiveness.”

Project manager Dr Deb Smith said during the second phase of the JCU-lead project, stakeholders in four prioritised communities would co-design and implement new models of care, with evaluation to measure impact of these changes to follow.

The project is supported by Australia’s National Rural Health Commissioner, the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA), and the Tropical Australian Academic Health Centre (TAAHC).

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