The interim report of the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission is due to be released on Monday. NHHRC Chair, Dr Christine Bennett, will address the National Press Club in Canberra from 12.30pm.
Who says what about the report will be interesting – if only for the insights these comments will yield about the health system and whose interests it serves. The observation that the public’s interests are often the poor cousin to other interests in the health industry is an old one but, unfortunately, still apt.
We in the media often reinforce this power imbalance by giving disproportionate space and weight to those representing professional, commercial and institutional interests. It’s likely that the AMA, ANF, and hospital lobby (both public and private) will win a prominent run next week.
Whose responses should we be seeking to represent the public interest in the debate? Especially those sections of the community who get a particularly raw deal from our current health system, like Indigenous, and rural and remote Australians, and others who generally don’t wield much clout in society?
More importantly, whose voices should the Government be listening to as they develop their response to the report?
In a stroke of serendipitous timing, the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation has just released two relevant articles with self explanatory titles:
• PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT (PART I) – ENGAGING THE PUBLIC IN HEALTHCARE POLICY: WHY DO IT? AND WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES?
• PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT (PART II) – HOW DO DELIBERATIVE PROCESSES ACHIEVE MEANINGFUL PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT?
Some timely reading for both journalists and policy makers who are likely to be swamped by the powerful voices of vested health industry interests in coming weeks.