Following on from the previous blog on primary health care... Secondary prevention is a smart and essential part of health care also.
Secondary prevention is about early detection, early treatment and effective long term management. It saves patients a great deal of money and suffering, not to mention saving them from premature death. Early detection occurs in part through education – the Cancer council has recently been running ads that encourage people to keep an eye out for suspicious signs.
Doctors surgeries have their walls covered with posters encouraging people to keep an eye on their weight (by looking at which hole on their belt buckle that they are using), and encouraging men in particular to have regular checks.
There are the screening services like those provided by Breastscreen, endoscopy procedures that look for early danger signs, and simpler and less invasive procedures like the blood pressure and blood sugar checks we should all have after the age of 50.
The reason why we have these education and screening services is that early detection means simpler, less expensive treatment and better outcomes. It helps us detect a problem before we experience symptoms (like bleeding, pain, or even lumps), which can be critical. And it helps us overcome our natural complacency… if we feel well, we assume there is nothing wrong, when sometimes there is. Screening gives us the peace of mind we are well, and just in case we aren’t it puts on the road to early treatment and recovery… keeping us well.
It promotes wellness, it keeps us happy and healthy, and it is relatively inexpensive. At the same time, it is the kind of service that governments can cut without people noticing too much. And sadly, that is what short sighted governments who focus on election cycle time frames do.
The Abbott/Turnbull government’s move to introduce GP co-payments undermines secondary health care because it discourages people going to the doctor early and getting screening done. The freezing of the Medicare rebate (slowly) undermines secondary health care in the same way. Limiting people’s access to affordable medications through undermining the PBS has the same effect. And even providing funding windows for specific and emerging health problems undermines long term secondary prevention. Because when the special funding runs out… the service stops, regardless of its effectiveness.
In contrast, the Green believe that secondary prevention is exactly where we need to invest our health dollars. Greens leader Dr Richard Di Natale has today announced a proposal to expand the cover Medicare provides for a significant and growing health problem for Australia in general and Townsville in particular … better treatment for diabetes. And of course, there are other emerging health risks which we need to address now… mental health, oral health, dementia and aged care.
The Greens have the major parties worried because they understand the issues that matter to most Australians and they have workable solutions.
But it is not just about spending, it is also about saving.
Medicare currently funds many procedures for which there is limited clinical evidence that they are best practice. Last year Four Corners highlighted many areas of waste in health funding.
You can watch that episode of Four Corners by clicking this link.
But despite that, the government has not sought to address wasteful spending, just to restrict access to health for people who can’t afford to pay.
The Greens support a great deal more spending on primary and secondary health care, and believe that in turn good health will be affordable for all. We also believe that good health for us all is tied to managing the health of both our built and our natural environment.
When we draw all those threads together... our nation and our citizens will prosper as a result.
by Wendy Tubman
The Townsville Greens will publish blogs considered to be of merit. The opinions expressed are those of the Author.