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Prioritising carers’ health and wellbeing in Australia’s healthcare system


In Australia, a significant portion of the population, over 10%, serves as unpaid carers for loved ones coping with chronic conditions, disabilities, or illnesses, despite lacking formal healthcare training.

While carers play an invaluable role, they often face numerous challenges that can adversely affect their social and financial standing, as well as their mental and physical health. The question arises: How can we ensure that carers receive the care and support they need?

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association’s (AHHA) Deeble Institute for Health Policy Research recently published an Issues Brief titled “Prioritising carers’ health and wellbeing in the healthcare system” that examines the pressures faced by carers, the existing limited support, and how clinicians and the healthcare system can best safeguard their health and wellbeing.

Co-authored by 2023 Deeble Scholar Dr Natalie Winter from the Institute for Health Transformation at Deakin University, this publication is part of the scholarship program supported by HESTA.

Kylie Woolcock, Chief Executive of AHHA, highlighted the scarcity of available data in Australia and their specific needs.

“Carers not only provide a significant contribution to their families but also reduce healthcare spending, saving the government over $77 billion in 2020 alone,” she said.

However, this substantial contribution is not adequately recognised in terms of improving long-term health outcomes. While frameworks for assessing carers’ needs exist, they have not been implemented comprehensively enough to provide comprehensive national data for guiding government spending and resource allocation.

The Issues Brief recommends four crucial strategies to bridge the knowledge gaps concerning carers’ needs and enhance the ability of health services and clinicians to deliver quality care.

These strategies include gathering more comprehensive data on carers’ wellbeing and service usage through standardised needs assessment frameworks. Furthermore, the involvement of carers, patients, and clinicians in co-designing system changes is advocated, along with increased education and support for clinicians treating carers.

The Brief also emphasises the importance of considering that some individuals may not identify as “carers” and the need to be inclusive of these often overlooked “hidden carers” when developing new frameworks.

“Carers in all forms are a huge piece of our health system, and we should be doing everything we can to help support their health and wellbeing,” Woolcock said.

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Ritchelle is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel, Australia’s premier resource of information for healthcare.


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