An average Australian is expected to live up to 82.5 years, according to the World Bank. This is due to the top-notch quality of health care that the country provides, of which Australia is among the top raked around the world.
However, just like any country, there are certain factors that will rise up and bring challenges to the current health care system in Australia. Some of these are already occurring, while some will definitely be issues down the road.
Although Australian health care systems are currently stable, and despite glowing reviews on how they have handled the ongoing COVID 19 epidemic, the industry will surely be having a more difficult time in the coming years due to the factors discussed below.
Here are some of the upcoming challenges for the Australian healthcare system.
Rise of Obesity and Chronic Conditions
Australia currently has one of the highest instances of chronic conditions in the world, with 1 in 2 Australians having at least one chronic disease. On the other hand, 25% of Australians have at least two chronic conditions at the same time.
Treating chronic conditions are long term and can be quite costly. What’s hurting the healthcare system is that most of these conditions are quite preventable. While tobacco use and excessive alcohol intake are some of the reasons for the rise in chronic conditions among Australians, obesity is often said to be the main culprit.
In 2018, it has been said that two-thirds of the entire Australian population is either overweight or obese. These conditions cause a myriad of conditions such as:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Back or joint pain
- Respiratory problems
Obviously, fighting against these conditions will be, and currently is, the challenge of the Australian healthcare system, although preventing obesity rates to rise will prove to be just as difficult.
Telehealth has been quite popular in recent years, especially now that everyone is being forced to stay at home. However, telehealth itself has been facing some challenges that prevent it from fully taking off. These can include support from the government, refusal of insurance companies to pay for telehealth services, and many more.
Telehealth is an amazing technology that has a lot of potential, but there are also a lot of things to accomplish before it fully becomes mainstream. Technical difficulties must be resolved, and coverage must be nationwide, not just for a select few.
Telehealth can greatly unburden the healthcare industry. However, unless it is allowed to develop its full potential, it can only provide a small percentage of what it can truly offer.
Australia is one of the most urbanized countries in the world, and the urbanization rate in the country is at around 1.43% each year. While urbanization has been great for the economy, this can pose as a treat to health care as a whole.
There have been several studies linking urbanization with increased rates of obesity, malnutrition, and mental health issues. This can be due to several factors such as the decrease of access to fresh and organic food, the increase of processed food intake, the stress of relocation, and overpopulation in rapidly diminishing rural areas.
Unfortunately, the government focuses more on urban development, while those living in remote and rural areas experience a lack of access to health care facilities. Doctors and specialists are almost always likewise found in cities rather than in rural locations.
In this case, telehealth services can be very beneficial, although the distribution of facilities and personnel nationwide should also be top priorities by the country’s healthcare system.
Inequality in Health Care
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are expected to live around 10 years shorter than non-indigenous Australians. They also comprise the majority of those living in rural and remote areas where access to healthcare is somewhat limited.
Although actions have been made to help improve the quality of healthcare provided to indigenous Australians, efforts are still not enough to effectively close the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous groups.
Aside from financial limitations, indigenous Australians also experience a lack of education and awareness about health-related issues. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders also often experience problems related to overpopulation, mental health issues, and violence.
Improving the status of life of these indigenous Australians can effectively unburden the country’s healthcare system. A significant decrease in disease rates for the population can really help ease the load of the country’s healthcare workforce as well as allow for better management of limited supplies and equipment.
An Ageing Population
Current figures show that the elderly makeup about 15% of Australia’s total population. In 20 years, the number of seniors has risen in all states, with some increasing as high as five percent. With the number of the elderly rising each year due to the rising life expectancy rates, more challenges will be faced by the healthcare system despite technically positive news.
As people age, their risk of susceptibility to disease will also rise. Age-related illnesses such as arthritis, heart disease, and neurological disorders will be the brunt of the healthcare system’s problems when it comes to the elderly. Conditions such as cancer and diabetes will be quite likely as well.
As the risk of disease increases with age, living a healthy lifestyle while young can keep some of these preventable diseases at bay. While keeping the elderly healthy is a priority, ensuring that Australians, even while young, aim to live healthy lifestyles should also be the government’s top projects.
While the Australian healthcare system will be facing some tough challenges, it is nothing that they have not done before. The government has developed several programs and initiatives to help further improve the quality of life for Australians. This often translates to improved health quality as well.
Healthcare is a top priority for the country. However, they must focus on how to resolve the factors mentioned above to ensure that they have the capacity to handle the future medical costs and patient load that will definitely come unless these challenges are met head-on.