Search Results for: health information

Health Information

Information is essential for you to be confident and empowered when making choices about your own health care.

Knowledge about health issues is constantly changing. Every year increases the sum of human knowledge through scientific and medical research, and consumers are empowered who are able to access and understand new information, relevant to their health care.

Warning on using the Internet

The Internet can be an invaluable source of up to date information, about medical conditions, illnesses, research findings, services and other issues of importance to you. However, the quality and reliability of health – related sites on the Internet are varied. Accuracy is not guaranteed. Further, each health consumer or patient is an individual, whose condition is unique. Not all advice on the Internet is good. Not all advice will be relevant or safe for you. A good approach to using the Internet is to make notes on the information that interests you and then discuss it with the doctor or other health professional who is treating you.

Click here to access our list of health sites

COVID-19 Information for people with health conditions

We’ve put together a collection of links to COVID-19 information and advice for people with specific health conditions.

This is general advice only. Please speak to your doctor for individual advice and information in regards to your specific condition/s and medications.

We recommend working with your medical team to create a plan for preparing for COVID-19, and the steps you should take if you become COVID positive.

Advice for people who are immunocompromised

Being immunocompromised means your immune system does not protect you from infection as well as it should. You may be immunocompromised as a result of a condition you were born with or have developed since, or because of medications you take to treat a condition.

The Australian Government, Department of Health and Aged Care provides ATAGI recommendations on the use of a third primary dose of COVID-19 vaccine in individuals who are severely immunocompromised here.

Royal Perth and Fiona Stanley Hospital provide COVID-19 information for people who are immunocompromised, including information on vaccinations, reducing risks of COVID for yourself and your family, how to safely participate in social events, and what to do if you have a positive COVID-19 test.

Vaccination advice for people who are severely immunocompromised

 

Arthritis and other rheumatic diseases
Cancer
Carers
Dementia
Heart Disease
Kidney Disease
Mental Health
Palliative Care

 

 

If you know of any WA or Australia-wide COVID-19 information for specific health conditions, please send us an email with the link and we’ll add it to this list – info@hconc.org.au

 

*Please note that Health Consumers’ Council is not affiliated with the above organisations or websites. We thank them for making this information available for consumers.

Information about the WA Health System

We have collected or developed the below resources to help newly arrived migrants, people who are unfamiliar with the WA health system, and/or those who do not have English as a first language. Not all resources are available in languages other than English, but where available we have provided links.

Covid-19 multicultural resources – A collection of Covid resources in languages other than English from both government and reputable other organisations.  Includes a video about the government’s COVIDsafe app available in 8 different languages and also a link to download a Covid information app in language.

Overview of the WA Health System  – This Government of WA, Department of Health page gives a brief overview of the WA public health system and how it is divided up (geographically) into the  metropolitan services of North Metropolitan Health Service, The South Metropolitan Health Service and The East Metropolitan Health Service plus the The Child and Adolescent Health Service and WA Country Health Service for regional and remote.  Links to each of these services are provided on the page.

Medicare eligibility and enrolling – This Australian Government page explains who is eligible for Medicare and how to enrol for a Medicare number / card.

About Medicare – This Australian Government page explains what is covered by Medicare and how to make claims (for money back or rebates)

Choosing Private Health Insurance – This page by the Commonwealth Ombudsman for Private Health Insurance explains how private health works in Australia and provides information on choosing a policy.

Your healthcare rights – This Health Consumers’ Council page explains your (legal) rights in healthcare around informed consent and the right to competent care.  Links also to more detail about mental health rights.

Going to hospital – Easy English Version – This is a Health Consumers’ Council produced brief brochure which explains (in simple English with few words and plenty of images) what to expect if you are going to hospital.  Includes what to pack and a bit about what to expect when you get home.

Going to hospital – Languages Other Than English – The above mentioned Health Consumers’ Council brochure is available in Farsi, Arabic, Urdu, Dari and Karen.

Choosing the right health service – This animated video from Health Direct (available in English, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese and Vietnamese) explains when it’s appropriate to use an online information resource, consult a telephone or online health help line, consult a pharmacist, consult your GP or go to hospital.

The role of a GP  – This animated video from Health Direct (available in English, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese and Vietnamese) explains the role of a General Practitioner (GP) or local, family doctor.  It explains what a GP can do for your and your family and how and when they will pass you over to a specialist doctor.  It explains how to find, choose and access a GP.

Paying for Healthcare – This animated video from Health Direct (available in English, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese and Vietnamese) discusses the cost of various health services and what services are covered by Medicare, the government scheme that helps Australians pay for healthcare.

Maternity Services – This animated video from Health Direct (available in English, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese and Vietnamese) looks at options for pregnancy care and where to give birth in Australia and the costs associated with the services.

Baby’s First Weeks – This animated video from Health Direct (available in English, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese and Vietnamese) looks and the services and support you can receive in the weeks post birth of a baby when living in Australia.

Mental Health – Link to the Embrace Multicultural Mental Health portal which is for both community and services providers.  For community there is a range of mental health resources in multiple languages as well as some personal stories and a list of community support organisations.

Five Questions To Ask Your Doctor – This is a Choosing Wisely provided resource, available in multiple languages, which provides five (5) questions which it is sensible to ask your doctor before opting for any test or treatment (together with a brief explanation as to why each is important).

Speaking Up and Giving Feedback – Link to the Health Consumers’ Council page of “self-advocacy” resources.  It provides key resources and links to websites to support yourself in the health system, and provide feedback to our health services.

The Health Translations Directory – A Victorian Government library of health resources which have been translated into multiple languages.  A very well stocked library which you can search via topic / condition or via language.

 

If you are from a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) background or work with people from a CaLD background then please participate in our survey on available health literacy resources for CaLD populations.   

Click here to complete the survey

Sustainable Health Review – focus on delivery

In November 2022, Health Consumers’ Council staff attended a WA Health Leadership breakfast with the Minister for Health and Mental Health, Amber-Jade Sanderson, for an update on the Sustainable Health Review (SHR).

After a slow start to implementation, and the disruptions caused by COVID, it was great to hear the Minister reiterate the Government’s commitment to the SHR and its implementation. The Minister was firm in her view that the SHR is about:

  • an equitable patient-centred system
  • a health system, not a hospital system
  • giving a voice to consumers.

She reminded attendees that the SHR outlined the need for courage, collaboration and systems-thinking.

We heard that while WA’s COVID response demonstrated the robustness of the WA health system, it also highlighted its fragility in some areas. The Minister was clear that as we now live with COVID, it’s not about snapping back to how things were before – but that it’s time to make sure that the health system’s actions match community needs.

She outlined that a key priority is addressing emergency access to care – which is a focus for a Ministerial Task Force that was established earlier this year.

Tim Marney, Chief Economist at Nous Consulting, and Chair of the Independent Oversight Committee (IOC) for the SHR then spoke about how the focus for the IOC is very much on delivery. There will be a new focus on implementation.

As part of that, it has been agreed to provide focused support to a smaller number of recommendations (there are 30 in total in the SHR) to enable implementation to be accelerated in these critical areas:

  • Recommendation 11: Improve timely access to outpatient services through:
    a) Moving routine, non-urgent and less complex specialist outpatient services out of hospital settings in partnership with primary care.
    b) Requiring all metropolitan Health Service Providers to progressively provide telehealth consultations for 65 per cent of outpatient services for country patients by July 2022.
  • Recommendation 13: Implement models of care in the community for groups of people with complex conditions who are frequent presenters to hospital.
  • Recommendation 17: Implement a new funding and commissioning model for the WA health system from July 2021 focused on quality and value for the patient and community, supporting new models of care and joint commissioning
  • Recommendation 22: Invest in a phased 10-year digitisation of theWA health system to empower citizens withgreater health information, to enable access
    to innovative, safe and efficient services; and
    to improve, promote and protect the health of Western Australians.
  • Recommendation 23: Build a systemwide culture of courage, innovation
    and accountability that builds on the existing
    pride, compassion and professionalism of staff to support collaboration for change
  • Recommendation 26: Build capability in workforce planning and formally partner with universities, vocational training institutes and professional colleges to shape the skills and curriculum to develop the health and social care workforce of the future

Tim was clear to point out that this did not signal that the other recommendations were less important and reiterated that work on these would continue.

He also highlighted that a number of the recommendations including Recommendation 3 with a focus on health equity and Recommendation 4 with a focus on citizen and community partnership – and for which Suzanna Robertson, HCC’s Executive Director is a co-lead – should be seen as underpinning all the other recommendations.

Health Consumers’ Council continue to advocate for targeted consumer and lived experience partnership and involvement in all the SHR work and look forward to learning more about how this will work for the six prioritised recommendations.

(By Clare Mullen, Deputy Director, Health Consumers’ Council)

A wild reflection from digital health summit

 

With the Wild Health Summit in Melbourne 18 October 2022, we are inspired by the idea that digital health could improve the patient experience even while the services themselves are quite fragmented. We need to continue to champion consumer voices in this space – too often they can be an after-thought.

We asked one of our consumer representatives, Robert McCormack, if he has any key questions or reflections to bear in mind for this upcoming Wild Health Summit event, having recently attended as a HCC consumer representative at the Digital Health Institute Summit (Perth 2022) held in August at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Q: What were your highlights that might be of interest to health consumers?

A: I met a number of healthcare and IT professionals but did not see another health consumer.  However in conversations with these professionals, several times they relayed personal experiences as either patients or as carers.  Nonetheless, there is a case to have more consumers at the table.

Q: With no other consumers, do you have any comment on that – i.e. would it be of interest to consumers in future? Should we be advocating for more consumer places?

A: the need to engage widely with all stakeholders was emphasised by the keynote speaker, and I am of the view that the patient/carer/consumer needs to be seen as the principal stakeholder.

Q: any comment you might have on the value of you being there with a consumer lens?

(Mr McCormack was generous to provide us with a report on his experience at Digital Health Institute Summit (Perth 2022), which is summarised, below…)

Some Key Observations

The participation of over 200 delegates suggests there is substantial interest across the State in the potential benefits that could be delivered from the implementation of a solid digital health strategy.

The delegates comprised a good cross-section of health professionals including nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, and general practitioners through to senior executives from WA Health, and IT professionals with only a few health consumers.

The opening address by Simon Millman, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health; Mental Health suggests the Western Australian Government has some commitment to digital health as also evident in its budget commitment to the first phase of developing a digital health record.

In conversation, most delegates acknowledged that while there has been some useful progress in rolling out aspects of digital health, considerable work needs to be done to achieve substantial potential benefits. One speaker described the current progress as additive rather than transformative.

Dr Helen Bevan, the keynote speaker, emphasised, with reference to her experience in the English National Health Service, the need to engage fully across the widest net possible of stakeholders to gain acceptance for proposed change, and this engagement needs to be done in the formative stages.

She particularly emphasised the need to identify and engage the key players, the “super-connectors”, in informal networks as well as dealing with the formal networks.

I note this approach contrasts with the experience of many health consumers in that they are too often ignored locally in the early developmental phases of most healthcare projects.

I am of the view that consumers as the clients of healthcare should be the primary stakeholders consulted in any proposed development of initiatives.

The fragmentation of responsibility for health across federal and state governments and the delivery of services across multiple providers presents particular challenges in assembling fragmented data.  While the My Health Record potentially brings data together from a number of providers, the record for each patient is mainly incomplete and may not have up-to-date information.

Hospitals use a myriad of systems that don’t automatically share data although some progress is being made as evident in a presentation by staff from Fiona Stanley Hospital.

The development of artificial intelligence tools is seeing the improved diagnosis and management of healthcare.

For example (of the above), as evident in the Health in a Virtual Environment (HIVE) project at Royal Perth Hospital and research undertaken by the CSIRO in diabetic foot ulcer diagnosis and management.

The need to think beyond the current paradigms in healthcare delivery was highlighted in a presentation on delivering chemotherapy in the home by Lorna Cook Company Director & Co-Founder, View Health Chemo@home.

In a similar vein, it should be noted that COVID has caused a rethink on service delivery models which has seen, for example, the development of telehealth options and electronic prescriptions.

Digital health innovation has the potential to improve the patient experience in booking appointments, such as the Health Engine system developed by Dr Marcus Tan.  In contrast, while the WA Health Department has invested in developing the Manage My Care app and is working on further enhancements to this app, this system is currently of limited use in that not all outpatient appointments are recorded on this system and patients have no opportunity to choose appointment times.

The trade stalls were mainly commercial IT companies who have had experience in developing and implementing systems across healthcare systems.  We can expect some of these companies will have opportunities to roll out digital systems across the WA health service providers.  It will be interesting to see the extent pre-existing systems will be adopted and the degree of customisation of these systems to meet our requirements versus bespoke development of new systems.

Concluding Remarks

While there have been several useful developments in the digital health space,

to realise the substantial benefits of a comprehensive integrated digital health strategy will require wider engagement of the broadest possible group of stakeholders at the earliest stages of the project with a particular focus on consumers/patients as the primary stakeholders together with the substantial investment of resources and talent over a prolonged period.

The Health Consumers Council can potentially play a key role in shaping the digital future of healthcare delivery by providing a broad range of consumer insights required for the critical success of the digital health strategy.

(This article/report is courtesy of Robert McCormack, HCC consumer representative.)

Consumer update on Sustainable Health Review workforce recommendations

Sustainable Health Review – update on health workforce issues

The Sustainable Health Review is a wide reaching and ambitious reform program. After an extensive consultation process the Review was published in 2019 and includes 30 recommendations, organised into eight enduring strategies.

Some of the work was paused as the health system responded to the COVID pandemic, but as we move towards living with COVID we’re starting to see action and progress on a number of the recommendations. You can see more about HCC’s involvement in this work at https://www.hconc.org.au/what-we-do/policy-development/sustainable-health-review-consumer-view/

Issues relating to the workforce and culture of the health system were included in the Review, and there are five recommendations that cover these issues.

Find out more about health workforce issues

Health Consumers’ Council hosted a consumer information session to share what we know about work that is happening as part of the Sustainable Health Review on workforce issues.

  • Click here to see the slides from that information session
  • Click here to view the Zoom recording of that information session

Consumers have their say

Health Consumers’ Council hosted two consumer consultations for the Department of Health on one of the recommendations on this topic on 26 July 2022.

Recommendation 26 – Build capability in workforce planning and formally partner with universities, vocational training institutes and professional colleges to shape the skills and curriculum to develop the health and social care workforce of the future.

You can view the post-its that were created as part of these online discussions

Session 1 – focus on regional perspectives

Click the links below to see the dot points for these topics

 

Session 2 – focus on metro perspectives

Click the links below to see the dot points for these topics

 

To be added to a mailing list to be kept informed about this work, contact Clare Mullen clare.mullen@hconc.org.au

(Last updated 29/07/22)

 

Oral Health Messages for the Australian Public (2022 Update) Steering Committee – consumer advisor sought

The Australian Dental Association (ADA) is looking for one (1) consumer advisor to join the Oral Health Messages for the Australian Public (2022 Update) Steering Committee. This is a short-term role until end December 2022.

Background

Dental diseases such as dental caries and periodontal disease are highly prevalent conditions with broad impacts on individuals and the community. One in three Australians over 15 years of age suffer from moderate to severe gum disease, and over 40% of children aged 5-10 years have had dental caries in their primary teeth. In 2019-2020 the combined expenditure on dental disease in Australia was almost 10 billion dollars. The individual and societal costs of dental disease are staggering given that dental disease is largely preventable.

The National Oral Health Plan 2015-2024 states that “Oral health promotion initiatives at both the individual level and population level are an important part of disease prevention”. Oral Health Promotion is a key foundational area of the NOHP with a goal to ensure that “All Australians have access to oral health promoting environments and to appropriate evidence-based information and programs that support them to make informed decisions about their oral health”.

In 2009, a working group established by the National Oral Health Promotion Clearing House at The Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health, University of Adelaide developed a consensus statement on oral health messages for the Australian public. The statement sought to establish clear, evidence-based oral health promotion messages in response to a goal of the previous National oral Health Plan (2004-2013). The consensus statement was highly effective, and enabled a focused, and strategic approach to oral health promotion in Australia. However, in the 13 years since the statement, the evidence base underpinning oral health promotion in Australia has grown and therefore an update of the consensus statement is needed.

The Melbourne Dental School at the University of Melbourne and the Australian Dental Association proposes to lead a collaborative expert working group to update the Oral Health Messages for the Australian Public.

Purpose

The purpose of the steering committee is to direct the development of the Oral Health Messages for the Australian Public consensus statement.

Role

The role of the steering committee includes the following.

  • Develop preliminary oral health promotion topics for consideration for inclusion in the statement.
  • Review planned methodology and provide feedback.
  • Contribute to rapid reviews on relevant topics.
  • Review and interpret results of qualitative and quantitative rounds of Delphi.
  • Lead discussions at a face-to-face/hybrid session for participants in the Delphi statement.
  • Monitor progress of project to forecast timelines.
  • Contribute to publicizing of results including media, where appropriate.
  • Contribute to authorship of journal article for peer review.

Meetings

  • Meetings will be held virtually.
    Meetings will be held in July, September and December 2022.
    A face-to-face symposium for dental practitioners will also be held.
    Meeting agendas, supporting papers, meeting notes and information will be provided by the project team in advance of the meetings.

Remuneration

The consumer advisor will be remunerated for their role on the Steering Committee. Any related accommodation and travel costs will also be provided.

Expressions of Interest

Please send your Expressions of Interest outlining your experience in dental health promotion with a copy of your current (short CV) to Rebecca Edwards r.edwards@chf.org.au by 5pm (AEST) 15 July 2022.

Further information

The original published consensus statement can be found at https://www.adelaide.edu.au/arcpoh/oral-health-promotion/resources/national-consensus-workshop/

Click here to read the Terms of Reference to support your expression of interest.

Putting the public back in public health

By Clare Mullen, A/Executive Director, 07/03/22

World Obesity Day 2022 – everybody needs to act!

World Obesity Day is marked on 4 March each year. The theme this year is “everybody needs to act”.

At Health Consumers’ Council (HCC) we’re acting by taking on the responsibility for hosting the WELL Collaborative (Weight Education and Lifestyle Leadership) – see below.

World Obesity Day is… complicated.

I know some people see it as a day when people in larger bodies are demonised. They utterly reject the term obesity and question the science that’s referred to as showing a link between increased weight and poorer health outcomes.

I have concerns about these too.

But I also know that many people in the community have negative health experiences relating to obesity. Whether that’s concerns about weight related health issues, or the mental health impacts of weight stigma and bias.

And so, through our work at HCC, we put forward the wide range of consumer perspectives that we’ve heard, while also going where there is political will, and some resources – and for now, that is obesity. (See below for more information about how we’re trying to change the conversation through promoting consumer and lived experience voices on this topic…)

I had the chance to take part in a couple of events last week to mark World Obesity Day. There is so much great work happening in this area but I’m particularly excited to see the momentum and recognition building for the need for diverse lived experience voices to be leading this work.

A couple of organisations that are worth following on social media, or subscribing to their mailing lists:

  • Australia: the Weight Issues Network. This is a group led by and for people with lived experience of weight issues. They run regular community conversations where members can learn about various aspects of the science of obesity – as well as advocating for more understanding of the personal aspects – find out more at www.auswin.org.au
  • Europe: the European Coalition for People living with Obesity. This group works collaboratively across Europe to improve the lives of people who are living with and are affected by the chronic disease of obesity through advocacy, policy and education. They run regular “patient lounge” discussions with consumers and researchers – find out more at https://eurobesity.org/

I really believe that only by raising lived experience voices in this space will we see real lasting positive change.

But it can be difficult to raise your head above the parapet in this space as a person with lived experience – particularly for people impacted by severe obesity.

We’ve all been so immersed in the idea that our weight is “our fault” that body shaming and judgement are practically sanctioned by some public health campaigns (grabbable gut anyone?).

And so health services and systems who want to hear more lived experience perspectives have to collectively invest in supporting people to develop their confidence to share their personal experiences in public settings for the greater good, and in creating safe places for those conversations to take place.

We’re lucky in Western Australia that the WA Department of Health and the WA Primary Health Alliance have recognised this and continue to support WA consumers to be heard on this topic.

Putting the public back in public health

I first heard the phrase “Putting the public back in public health” in a WA Department of Health publication, led by Professor Tarun Weeramanthri when he was the Chief Health Officer there.

It has stuck with me since. I think it’s because I see that so many of the elements that impact on our health and wellbeing are factors in the realm of our social worlds, rather than in the realm of our clinical experience.

This idea sharpened considerably for me when I took on HCC’s involvement in what was then called “The Obesity Collaborative – Partners in Change” project. A forward thinking team at the WA Department of Health and the WA Primary Health Alliance gave HCC a small grant to gather consumer insights so that work to address the health impacts of obesity was grounded in the experience of people with lived experience.

That work led to a survey with 750 responses, 25 first-person accounts, and two videos featuring consumers sharing their perspectives – perspectives that were shared at the two Summits on the subject in 2018. (You can see that work here.) That work shaped the development of the WA Healthy Weight Action Plan.

What emerged from all the stories and feedback people shared was:

  • people’s experiences relating to weight and health vary widely. This is backed up by the academic literature which highlights the heterogeneity of people’s experiences of obesity.
  • weight bias and stigma is a huge public health issue that is under-recognised by health professionals and public health teams. Academic evidence suggests that in some cases, the health impact of weight stigma can be more harmful than the health impact related to weight.
  • that many of things that people turned to when seeking to address this issue were non-clinical. One hypothesis for this that diet culture needs us all to feel individually responsible for our weight so that we will buy programs and products that promise the holy grail of long-term weight loss.

Another personal observation for me was the role that our current economic model plays in our health. Whether it’s because there is limited regulation of the food industry (because #profit), or because people living on no/low-incomes are dealing with a whole range of issues including how to make ends meet, or because we are encouraged to believe we should be so committed to our jobs that we’d rather miss a meal than an important meeting – the economic environment has a huge impact on our health and health inequity.

Partnering with consumers – in implementing positive change

The value of lived experience perspectives in the Healthy Weight Action Plan was recognised as essential and another grant from the Department of Health enabled HCC to gather more consumer insights to support the implementation of the Plan. (Again, kudos to the Department of Health for their forward thinking approach. Too often “consumer engagement” stops once the plan is published.)

That grant enabled HCC to gather insights from people with diverse perspectives on the topic including Aboriginal people, people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, men, young people, and people with disability. It also enabled us to ensure that consumer perspectives shaped the critical activities being implemented as part of the plan. In this way, consumers or consumer perspectives were involved as projects were shaped and developed including:

  • Scoping a new proof of concept program offering virtual support to consumers who were using evidence-based very low calorie diet products
  • Scoping commissioning standards for DoH and WAPHA to use when commissioning services in this area
  • Scoping and refining the collaborative approach to addressing this issue in WA ↓↓

Introducing the WA WELL Collaborative!

The WA WELL Collaborative (WELL = weight education and lifestyle leadership) is the culmination of many hours of work by many teams of people across the community and the health sector.

The WELL Collaborative is a network where everyone with an interest in addressing the health impacts of weight, overweight, and obesity can come together. Whether that’s to find information about existing services, where consumers can be connected with clinicians and researchers who are working on new concepts, or to share challenges and wins about working in this very complex field.

One main way that people can access the network is through our freshly launched website:

You can sign up there to receive regular updates about Collaborative activities. The website is a living site and will be updated regularly.

HCC, WA Department of Health and WA Primary Health Alliance – taking action

I’m delighted to say that HCC has been given a grant by the WA Department of Health and the WA Primary Health Alliance to enable us to continue to ensure that lived experience voices continue to shape and drive this work. Part of our role is to host the backbone function of the WELL Collaborative. In practice this means hosting different networks, organising events, and managing the website.

The first thing I’m really proud of is the name – originally in the Plan this group was going to be the Obesity Collaborative. But since we started talking to consumers, it was clear that the term “obesity” was not one they connected with. It has become widely understood in the community as a pejorative term – and so, unsurprisingly, many consumers aren’t drawn to it. And so when working on a brand and name for the network, we made sure that was clear to the team developing those.

(Note of caution… we know that some consumers are very comfortable with the term and have questioned how other people like them – who are seeking help for the health impacts of obesity – will find their way to the website. We are addressing that through the data we use for search engine optimisation and our communications with other partners.)

The other ways that consumers have shaped this network include the imagery that has been used, and the focus on weight stigma.

Representation matters

We regularly hear from consumers in larger bodies that they are tired of never seeing any positive images when discussing weight and health. They want to see themselves reflected in images that reflect their lives – which are not all doom and gloom. So we connected the website team with a number of the image libraries that have been curated by various groups around the world.

Weight stigma – a major public health issue

A major finding from our work with consumers was the impact that shame, embarrassment and stigma has on people’s health. Whether that’s explicit bias being expressed by health professionals, or implicit in the body language; or it might also be internalised weight stigma – where we’ve been brought up to believe (incorrectly) that we are entirely responsible for our weight and so if we aren’t able to shape our bodies the way we want to, then it is a personal failing. All of these can input on our health – if we don’t receive the correct healthcare advice and treatment because of incorrect assumptions based on our size; if we don’t reach out for treatment because we’re embarrassed our efforts haven’t worked, or if we cope with body shaming by opting for less healthy behaviours.

HCC will be doing a lot more on this topic in the coming months – so watch this space.

But for now, check out this video where consumers talk about their own experiences of weight stigma in health services, and find out what you can do to become aware of any unintentional bias you may hold at www.hconc.org.au/end-weight-stigma

Health consumer stories driving positive change

COVID, consenting to medical research, cancer information, and promoting health

The first few weeks of 2022 have been a busy time in health in WA…

Preparing for and living with COVID

Those weeks have been a time for everyone at Health Consumers’ Council of intense listening to, sharing and advocating for more consumer voices in the planning and preparing the health system’s response to preparing to live with COVID.

In that time we’ve held three discussions with consumer leaders and representatives across WA to hear what was on people’s minds as they were preparing themselves, their families and their communities for living with COVID.

Key messages we heard were that there was a sense of fear in some parts of the community as people navigate the shift from “COVID is to be avoided at all costs” to “we are living with COVID”. We also heard that there was a lack of information for health consumers who have underlying conditions, or who are immunocompromised, and need to make additional preparations. And the third strong message was people’s concerns were not just for their health, but the social implications of COVID. For example, who can people rely on if they’re a carer and they get sick? How do people get access to care if they’re unable to leave the house? What should they be doing to make sure they can get access to the healthcare they need – and stay safe?

And finally, we heard a strong message from health consumers about the opportunity to help people feel more empowered and confident in their ability to prepare.

We’ve shared these concerns with health leaders including the Minister for Health, health service Chief Executives and the teams leading the COVID response at the WA Health Department and the WA Primary Health Alliance.

By the end of last week, we’d seen a couple of significant changes – South Metropolitan Health Service had published information on their websites for people who are immunocompromised, and some patients who are at a higher risk of developing severe disease if they contract COVID are receiving calls from their specialists to help them work out how they can prepare themselves and their families.

We also were able to get information about the new COVID Care At Home program out to over 110 people who registered for a community conversation with Dr Robyn Lawrence from the Health Department, as well as getting into out to the broader community via a mention in Renee Gardiner’s column in The West.

The next focus will be to keep getting the message out into the community – particularly to those groups where mainstream communication methods like websites and news media in English are not widely used.

The other focus will be on encouraging other people in the community to play their part in getting information out to the people who need it and to look out for their neighbours or family members who might value a bit of support. As one consumer who was quoted in the article in The West said “We are all in the same storm but the boats are so different it’s hard to hang out in the tinny with a hole in when others are in their yacht.”

www.hconc.org.au/issues/covid-19

https://www.healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Coronavirus/Managing-COVID19-at-home-and-in-the-community/WA-COVID-Care-at-Home

And it’s not all about COVID… have your say!

As we finalise our preparations for living with COVID it’s important to remember it’s not the only health issue that’s important for the WA community. There are a couple of key consultations that are looking for consumer input:

  • What are your views about the issue of giving consent to treatment – particularly if you’re incapacitated?
    • The Guardianship and Administration Act Part 9E came into existence on 7 April 2020 “to enable medical research to be carried out in respect of persons who do not have the ability to consent  to it.” While it might seem a bit dry, it could make the difference between someone accessing cutting edge treatment that is part of a research program or not.
    • Find out more and complete the short survey by 25 February at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GuardianshipAdmin9E
  • Have you or someone you know had cancer? What information was, or would have been, most helpful?

And finally – towards a healthier WA

This month we also made time to respond to the WA Department of Health’s consultation on the WA Health Promotion Strategic Framework. We called for a stronger focus on health inequities, the recognition of early childhood trauma on our longer term health, and encouraged a bold vision for a healthier WA that the whole community can buy into.

You can read our submission here https://www.hconc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/WA_Health-Promo-Strategic-Framework-HCC-response-040222.pdf

Clare Mullen, A/Executive Director
February 2022