Woolcock highlighted that over 1.5 million Australians are at risk of long-term chronic illness due to long COVID, which severely impacts their daily lives. However, the true burden of this condition on the healthcare system remains poorly understood and likely underestimated.
In a recently published Issues Brief titled “How patient experiences can guide the development of Long COVID health policy,” co-authored by Breanna Weigel, a Griffith University PhD candidate, the role of lived experiences in shaping Australian health policy for long COVID is explored. This research is part of the 2023 Deeble Summer Scholarship program.
One of the primary challenges faced by individuals with long COVID is the lack of a nationally accepted case definition in Australia. Additionally, public health messaging varies between states and territories, complicating the diagnostic process.
Unlike several other OECD countries, Australia does not officially recognise long COVID as a disability. This lack of recognition hampers access to essential care and support services, adding to the discrimination and stigma faced by Long COVID patients in healthcare and employment settings.
To address these issues and ensure that Australians with Long COVID receive appropriate and person-centered healthcare, several priority areas need attention. This includes enhancing surveillance and providing consistent public health guidance to accurately assess the burden of long COVID on the healthcare system.
Additionally, advocating for the recognition of Long COVID’s disabling impacts on Australian health policy is crucial to granting patients access to necessary services and safeguarding them from discrimination.
Woolcock stressed the importance of increasing engagement with long COVID patients to develop and deliver person-centered, value-based care tailored to their specific needs. The Deeble Summer Scholarship program, supported by HESTA, aims to contribute to these efforts.