Document Type : Original Article
College of Medicine and Public Health, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA, Australia
Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA, Australia
There is an increasing emphasis on the importance of comprehensive primary healthcare (CPHC) in improving population health and health equity. There is, therefore, a need for a practical means to determine how comprehensive regional primary healthcare organisations (RPHCOs) are in their approach. This paper proposes a framework to provide such a means. The framework is then applied to assess the comprehensiveness of Australian RPHCOs.
Drawing on a narrative review of the broader literature on CPHC versus selective primary healthcare (SPHC) and examples of international models of RPHCOs, we developed a framework consisting of the key criteria and a continuum from comprehensive to selective interventions. We applied this framework to Australian RPHCOs using data from the review of their planning documents, and survey and interviews with executive staff, managers, and board members. We used a spidergram as a means to visualise how comprehensive they are against each of these criteria, to provide a practical way of presenting the assessment and an easy way to compare progress over time.
Key criteria for comprehensiveness included (1) focus on population health; (2) focus on equity of access and outcomes; (3) community participation and control; (4) integration within the broader health system; (5) inter-sectoral collaboration; and (6) local responsiveness. An examination of Australian RPHCOs using the framework suggests their approach is far from comprehensive and has become more selective over time.
The framework and spidergram offer a practical means of gauging and presenting the comprehensiveness of RPHCOs, and to identify gaps in comprehensiveness, and changes over time.