In the run up to the Federal budget on 29 March and an election by 21 May, this article continues a Croakey series asking: what health issues should be elevated in national debate?
Below are contributions from the National Health Leadership Forum, the Australian College of Nursing and the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes.
Address racism and inequality
National Health Leadership Forum
Chairperson Donna Murray
Our vision is for the Australian health system to be free of racism and inequality, and for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have access to health services that are effective, high quality, appropriate and affordable.
As we approach the Federal Budget and election, we are advocating for system-wide investment in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan, including on monitoring and reporting on the Plan’s implementation.
We also want to see a system-wide investment approach for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workforce Strategic Framework and Implementation Plan.
We are supporting calls to better assert our rights and self-determination across our national institutions through constitutional reform lead by the recommendations that arose from the Uluru Statement from the Heart. The NHLF calls for all Australian governments to support and enact the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
We would like to see specific initiatives addressing systemic racism. The NHLF calls for coordinated and long-term action to eliminate racism and discrimination within our institutions. Racism is experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across the health and justice systems at alarming rates.
It is critical that there be genuine needs-based funding investment in the social determinants of health that have greatest impact on health outcomes – primary health care, housing, education, justice and law reform, climate change, aged care and disability services, Indigenous rights, and social justice.
The NHLF calls for social justice and human rights-based approaches to be the normal practice within law enforcement and justice systems.
We also call for genuine investment in and support for solutions that are locally identified to address climate change.
We also assert the importance of the cultural determinants of health, and call for investment and support that recognises their importance to improved health and wellbeing as determined by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their knowledge’s and perspectives.
These priorities have been a constant theme for the NHLF since its inception as they all play a role in either hindering or enhancing health outcomes and closing the gap in health and social and economic equity between First Nations People and non-Indigenous Australians.
The NHLF is a collective partnership of 13 national organisations who represent a united voice on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing with expertise across service delivery, workforce, research, healing and mental health and social and emotional wellbeing. Members include:
- Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association
- Australian Indigenous Psychologists’ Association
- Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives
- The Healing Foundation
- Indigenous Allied Health Australia
- Indigenous Dental Association of Australia
- The Lowitja Institute
- National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers’ Association
- National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership in Mental Health
- National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation
- National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Physiotherapists
- Torres Strait Regional Authority.
Invest in nursing, a critical workforce
Australian College of Nursing
CEO Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN
A highly skilled nursing workforce is essential to leading Australians into the 22nd century and fixing the issues plaguing our health and aged care systems.
Despite being the largest of the health professionals and leaders in providing care for our most vulnerable across all sectors, nurses have limited access to upskilling their education and development after graduation. This is essential to ensuring the complex and evolving needs of health consumers are effectively addressed, especially for senior clinical registered nurses meeting advanced practice requirements.
In our pre-Budget submission, the ACN called for funding to support the education of the next generation of advanced practice nurses and those currently working in or planning to work in the aged care and disability sectors. This includes providing 5,000 scholarship places for nurses in aged care to obtain a graduate certificate as well as establishing two units of study for nurses who want to work in the disability sector.
Additionally, we are asking for 150 scholarship places for nurses aged under 35 to participate in the Leading Excellence Through Advanced Practice Scholarship Program. These initiatives will result in Australia’s most vulnerable and underserviced populations receiving the benefits of expert nursing care both now and for generations to come.
In the lead-up to the Federal election, ACN will be using our substantial influence to ensure the perspectives and experiences of nurses across Australia are at the forefront of policy discussion and debate in the interest of all Australians.
There are over 400,000 nurses, making us the largest health workforce nationally. Nurses deliver across all health sectors, in primary care, mental health, aged care, community care and in hospitals.
We have put the people we care for above our own professional and personal needs since the beginning of the pandemic, knowing the community deserves the highest levels of care and emotional support.
It is time all politicians and political parties recognise the vital need to continue to invest in nurses, because when we invest in nurses, we invest in healthy communities and healthy citizens.
Our voice is loud, and MUST be heard.
Growing the next generation of scientists
Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes
Executive Director Dr Peter Thomas
Investing in health and medical research is one of the best investments any government can make. According to KPMG, for every dollar invested in research, nearly four dollars in economic benefits are delivered to the nation.
Our past investment in medical research has paid off, not just for the economy but for the health of the population. We saw this in the pandemic as our scientists rushed to develop the epidemiological modelling, diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines needed to respond to this global crisis.
Despite the successes of our medical research, many of our early- to mid-career researchers are facing a great deal of uncertainty. These are the scientists who will be leading the nation’s response to the next health challenges we face. However, they are the same group who have the greatest struggle to secure research funding, with the lowest number of fellowships and grant success rates that the sector has seen in decades.
NHMRC Ideas Grants are one of the key government funding sources for early- and mid-career researchers and their innovative research. But the funding pool has flat-lined over the last decade, leading to declining success rates. In recent years, only nine percent of grant applications received from this promising group of researchers have been funded, leaving over 90 percent of researchers struggling to fund their life-saving work. This is not for lack of talent or innovative ideas – more than 50 percent of applications are sufficiently high quality to be funded.
When faced with such a small chance of securing funding for their work many scientists are forced to leave research and pursue an alternative career. Each time we lose one of those valuable individuals, they take around 20 years of expertise, knowledge, and training with them.
While acknowledging the Government has made new investments in medical research in recent years, it is now time to make a new targeted investment in this critical cohort of researchers.
Therefore, AAMRI is calling for an additional 288 Ideas Grants per year through the NHMRC to support the next generation of researchers. These additional grants would raise the grant application success rate to around 20 percent.
The new grants should be targeted to researchers who are in the first ten years of their career (ten years after completion of their PhD). This career stage is where the workforce continuity challenge is most fragile. A gender equity commitment should be made to ensure their fair allocation.
Ongoing funding for the 288 Ideas Grants each year should be introduced through new additional investment of around $278 million per year allocated through the NHMRC. This funding would be introduced over three years, with $97 million in year one, building up to around $278 million in ongoing investment each year.
By investing in and securing the next generation of scientists, it will deliver Australia the economic and health benefits we need.
Our first article in this series featured the priorities of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, Consumers Health Forum of Australia, LGBTIQ+ Health Australia, National Rural Health Alliance, Public Health Association of Australia, and health policy analyst Charles Maskell-Knight.
See Croakey’s archive of stories on the 2022 Federal election
See Croakey’s archive of stories on the 2022-2023 Federal budget.