Category: News

COVID health protections in hospitals – return to masks

Health Consumers’ Council welcomes today’s announcement by the WA Department of Health that WA public hospitals will be strengthening health protections in light of an increase in COVID-19 infections.

We know that COVID has remained a concern for medically vulnerable people and the community at large. And with regular media reports of rising infection numbers, and evidence about the impact of Long COVID still emerging, many in the community may be concerned about whether we’re doing enough to manage the risk of serious illness or widespread infection.

HCC will be hosting a Community Conversation for health consumers where attendees will hear directly from Dr Andy Robertson, WA Health’s Chief Health Officer, and get the facts on the latest wave on Tuesday 12 December at 1pm.

Find out more and register at

Children's building blocks with UPDATE COVID19 spelled out - and title of the event

It shouldn’t be this hard to be heard…

By Clare Mullen, Executive Director

It was heartbreaking to hear about the experiences of the the family of baby Ashlee, who died in 2019. We were asked to speak about this on the ABC Drive show this week after the Coroner found that Ashlee’s death was preventable.

Ashlee’s dad spoke about how difficult it was to have their voice heard in the health system. He described how they had to resort to getting lawyers involved just to get answers, and to get an acknowledgement that something had gone wrong.

Sadly, the experience of trying to get answers from the health system, or an acknowledgement or an apology from health services after something has gone wrong, can often be a distressing experience – adding more pain to an already terrible situation.

Let’s be clear – this experience, and other incidents like it, should not happen. 

We want no family to go through this situation.

That’s why we advocate for a patient safety culture in our hospitals. A big part of that is listening to families and patients when they raise concerns.

We know people believe that safe care is care where they feel heard by the treating team.

We believe that part of that safety culture would see consumer perspectives being taken on board at every level of decision making that impacts on patient – from bed level to Board level. We believe this is critical to making sure that decisions that affect safety and quality – such as resourcing and staffing levels – in hospitals are made with consumer perspectives front and centre.

Use Aishwarya’s CARE Call to speak to a senior staff member

Thanks to the advocacy of another family who also experienced a tragic death in a hospital, people in WA public hospitals have another way to have their voice heard in the health system.

If you are concerned about a loved one’s condition when they’re in hospital, and you feel you’re not being heard when you speak to staff, you can An image of a heart with wings, next to the title Aishwarya's CARE Call. A speech bubble with "Are you worried?". We need to know.use Aishwarya’s CARE Call.

This is a number in the hospital where you can speak to a senior staff member who will listen and action your concerns there and then.

If things go wrong

Where something has gone wrong in health in WA, and if you’re having trouble getting answers, Health Consumers’ Council can help by walking alongside you. We can help you to get information about what happened so you can decide what action you might want to take. That could be asking to meet with the hospital team, submitting a complaint, accessing your health records, etc. Our team can advise on writing letters, or accompany you to appointments if you would like.

We also have information on our website to help you navigate the process of making a complaint if that’s what you want to do.

Health Consumers’ Council is an independent charity that was set up to provide a way for consumer, patient, carer, and family voices to be heard at every level of the health system. We were set up almost 30 years ago by people who wanted there to be an independent body that speaks up for consumers in health. We offer an independent advocacy service that can walk alongside consumers, patients, and families who are seeking answers and redress when things go wrong in health.

Unfortunately, limited resources mean we’re not able to be available to everyone that could benefit from our support.

WA needs more “in the moment” advocacy

Ideally, people would be able to access individual advocacy support where and when it’s needed. We’d like to see independent advocates available on site in our hospitals. We would rather be able to help people assert their rights in the moment, to avoid things going wrong.

As Ashlee’s family commented – you should haven’t to resort to lawyers to get your voice heard in health.

Health consumers’ feedback on digital health “Future for healthcare in Australia…” workshop


HCC’s Consumer representatives give feedback on ACHSM pre-congress workshop

Over 100 ppl — mostly health service providers — but certainly including at least 12 HCC consumer representatives, attended a pre-ACHSM* congress workshop, “The future of healthcare in Australia: designed for consumers, enabled by digital, and accessible for all” held at Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre 21-23 September 2022. Following the event, we asked our HCC consumer representatives who attend the pre-congress workshop for feedback. Read further to find out what they said.

* 2022 Australasian College of Health Service Management – ACHSM, held at Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre 21-23 September 2022.

The session was entitled “Future for healthcare in Australia: designed for consumers enabled by digital access for all’. The main presentation gave an overview of the Deloitte, Curtin Uni and CHF white paper entitled ‘Australia’s health reimagined. The journey to a connected and confident consumer.” 

Noted by one consumer: the very title of the session …designed FOR, not designed WITH!

In this white paper it shows where the opinions of stakeholders lie about where the health system currently sits, as well as priorities for change.

The three “horizons” – ‘connected’, ‘empowered’ and ‘confident’ consumers – are envisaged to exist as a progressive step approach to a reimagined health system which ‘supports all Australians to live their best, healthiest lives.’ The white paper describes a number of transitions that will reorientate the health system to focus on the needs of individuals.

Following the review of this report’s findings, the audience was asked to participate in a series of Menti polls (Mentimeter is an online, interactive, live polling tool used to ask questions at events, and provides the audience’s responses on screen). Polling activities looked at views on the current state of healthcare and its use of digital health in terms of three horizons, connected, empowered and confident consumers.

Overall, many of our consumers suspected that that the room was not very consumer focused in its perspective.

One consumer said that when voting on priority focusses, the important dimensions to focus on that will accelerate the health system toward achieving its visions (e.g., consumers moving along the “horizon” from “connected” through to “empowered”), the dimensions relating to consumers came in as priorities 5, 8, 12 and 13. Priorities 1-4 were system funding, system integration, enabler workforce, and enabler data interoperability.

The priority responses from the room were all about the providers and the system doing things to reform itself – not starting from where consumers are and what they need.

There was a lot of academic and high-level commercial ‘report’ jargon thrown around the room, said another consumer, which is not very consumer-friendly regarding simple language or a ‘give it to me straight, doc’ approach.

One of our consumer representatives said he was “very surprised that the title suggested workshop for consumers but [that consumers] were very outnumbered by others [e.g., health service providers]”.

However, more than a couple HCC consumer representatives found the workshop to be positive and most worthwhile with a good spread of consumers in the room and plenty of opportunity to get the consumer perspective heard and captured, especially using Menti. A couple consumers mentioned Menti being useful:

“…the electronic way [using Menti] of gathering comments, opinions and insights (via phones) is an efficient way of conducting the workshop, especially when only 1.5 hours is allocated.”

The strong consumer feedback will help shape the next phase of the work.

Of interest, the point was made that health providers and clinicians are also service users and so they should look at what they would want to receive for themselves and their loved ones.

Another consumer seconded that point of view, saying “A moot point was that we are all consumers at one time or other.”

It is worth highlighting concerns of another health consumer in attendance:

“… about the comments made [regarding] ‘we are all consumers of health services’ by the group. I think it is really important for not only health service providers but also health workers and those in leadership positions across the system, to understand that being a consumer of health services means different things for different people. While I agree that we all should receive the same access to digital health tools, there needs to be a recognition of the complexity of need for consumers with complex health issues compared to those who perhaps step in and out of the health system periodically throughout their lives – and digital solutions need to address this and respond to it. People with chronic health conditions…often have contact with the health system on a weekly basis and require a more intensive, complex, and sophisticated relationship with the system, to meet their needs. I don’t believe this level of complexity is necessarily understood or appreciated by people who don’t have lived experience of chronic disease and multiple comorbidities. I think to say, ‘we are all consumers of health services’ is being blind to the varied complexities of consumer experiences and it is essential to have people living with complex chronic disease who are reliant on the health system constantly, in leadership positions in health, to ensure this is understood and provided for in digital health strategy.”

Some pointed out that if the health system did not hurry up and adopt more digital health resources then digital disruption would mean consumers met their needs elsewhere as private companies enter the field and websites such as are set up.

(This was echoed by another consumer who attended an event in August 2022 – read the blog here: “A wild reflection from digital health summit”.)

More quotes, and feedback:

There have been many similar strategies in the past and many of our consumers remain unconvinced that we need another one at this point. For example, many of our people specifically mentioned the National Australian Digital Health Strategy and that it involved “extensive community consultation across the country”.

…it is frustrating to see a restart, rather than building on what has been done previously.

I fear that there are many efforts to improve the health provision in the community but is it still being addressed in silos.

I would love to see a co-design committee developed to move ahead with what priorities can be worked on in this space.

There is no “one size fits all” and there are many things that need to be improved within WA Health. How can we move forward with realistic and achievable outcomes is my question?

As an aside – one health consumer recommends the 2017 Documentary “Daughters of Destiny” on Netflix and is convinced that starting health literacy awareness in early education is absolutely necessary.

[Noteworthy: October is Health Literacy Month.]

One consumer noted that “we [the attending workshop participants] were not told how the survey of approximately 1,800 people was administered nor the characteristics of the respondents.” She said, “This raises concerns about representativeness and possible bias if it was largely administered digitally as this may result in an overstatement of willingness and desire to adopt digital health resources.”
(~ Since the session she discovered it was indeed an online survey)

“A central focus on health outcomes was not explicit and evident in the presentation, and that is always a concern,” one consumer shared. “It must be the starting and end point, with the strategy articulating a pathway for delivering improvement.

Digital health is not a silver bullet and cannot be considered in isolation of the “health” ecosystem – it is an enabler along with other interdependent components that must be represented as part of a holistic solution that brings in a stronger community role and emphasis on consumer responsibility.”

“We all need the reassurance that there will be benefits of an integrated system that it is sustainable, workable, and where all [are] included [with] no one left behind…

Our regional services need aligning around Australia. Our Indigenous communities need appropriate consultation. Multicultural people need accessible info. Gender diverse, neuro divergent, and multiplicity of broad users need to be recognised and accepted as service users with their own often co existing diversity and needs. We know mental health concerns have also risen throughout Australia over past three years, not to mention our ageing population with continuing and varying need.

[Noteworthy: October is World Mental Health Month.]

If we are not delivering appropriate health care now to those in need, how do we expect anything new to be accepted, or are we going to have to supplement upcoming changes with the loss of something already existing?”

Overall, although with mixed levels, HCC consumer representatives thought the white paper is a useful contribution. However, there are several concerns that “not enough attention is paid to the digital divide either in the report or the workshop and there is a real danger it will gloss over the difficulties of access for some and rather than delivering something that is person-focused. It will assume that all consumers want and are able to access digital health and therefore replicate existing inequalities rather than break them down.”



Follow our social media platforms for ongoing commentary and contributions from our consumer representatives and the HCC team.

Connecting and communicating consumer perspectives on cancer care in WA


Has cancer affected your life – currently or in the past? A desire to connect with others who have similar lived experiences is the drive behind the upcoming community conversation welcoming consumers affected by cancer in WA. Health consumers’, carers, family, and community are invited to join “Connecting and communicating consumer perspectives on cancer care in WA“.

Be part of the conversation to discuss progress on the 2020-25 WA Cancer Plan. Discuss opportunities for future consumer and community connections.

Date and time

About this event

The WA Cancer Plan guides cancer care in WA: find out about progress on the 2020-25 plan and discuss opportunities for future consumer and community connections

Health Consumers’ Council (HCC) WA and the Consumer and Community Involvement Program (CCIP) are hosting this community conversation for people with experience of cancer – either for themselves, or for a loved one.

In this session, consumer representative Susannah Morris, the HCC WA consumer representative in cancer involved in work relating to the development and now implementation of the WA State Cancer Plan, will give an update on work so far as background for the conversation. Cancer care is delivered in the states and so state plans provide important context that guides care and affects consumer experiences and outcomes. Unlike some other jurisdictions, WA does not have a readily identifiable network of cancer consumers: we are fragmented between our cancer types and our treating locations and so this community conversation provides a space for us to come together.

This will be an opportunity for attendees to discuss their interest in people with experience of cancer in WA connecting with each other in order to influence the scope, design and delivery of health services and health research in relation to cancer and survivorship.

(NB This information session is being hosted independently by HCC and the CCIP to provide an opportunity for people with experience of cancer to connect with each other and learn about work relating to cancer care and services in WA. This is not a Department of Health event.)

This conversation will be held online, via Zoom – details will be sent out in the week before the session.


About the organisers

We are (Health Consumers’ Council WA) an independent charity that exists to support and promote consumer, carer and community perspectives in the WA health system.

The Consumer and Community Involvement Program (CCI Program) is an activity of the Western Australian Health Translation Network (WAHTN). The CCI Program (CCIP) supports consumers, community members and researchers to work in partnership to make decisions about health research priorities, policy and practice with the aim of improving health outcomes and ensuring community involvement becomes standard practice.

BACKGROUND: Cancer Care and the WA Cancer Plan, launched 2020

The WA Cancer Plan was released in February 2020 setting out the next five years of strategy in relation to cancer services. This work was undertaken by the WA Department of Health, and the Health Consumers’ Council supported the project through running a community survey and developing consumer videos reflecting consumer patient journey experiences. A summary of survey results is available here. The launch event featured a moving and articulate presentation from Advisory Group member Susannah Morris, who ensured the consumer voice was at the heart of the plan as much as possible.

(An abridged version of Susannah’s speech is in Health Matters (pages 10-11: March 2020 issue) on the Health Consumers’ Council (WA) website, titled “A new plan for cancer
care in WA“)


(LinkedIn: for Dr Susannah Morris)

My Health Record Opt Out Period

You have from 16th July until 16th October to opt out…

Did you know that by the end of 2018, an online summary of your health information “My Health Record” will be created for every Australian?

If you don’t want to have a My Health Record, you need to take action by 15th October and opt out.

There are a range of ways to support you to opt out, and these will come on line by 16th July. You can sign up on this web page for updates as they are released.

Why have a My Health Record?

In simple terms, a My Health Record connects the dots between, for example, your GP and your hospital care. Over the last several years, WA Health services have been working on linking your hospital discharge summary to a My Health Record. So when your discharge summary is created, it looks for a match with a My Health Record and if there one, it will connect the two. Your GP will then be able to see the discharge summary, and so will you. Getting a My Health Record will mean important information like this will be at your fingertips 24/7. This will result in faster and safer care for you and your family.

Do you have any allergies???

Patients often wonder why they have to keep repeating tests and explaining allergies over and over again. but currently, we have on way of easily sharing that information across our systems. A My Health Record will help with this.

Across Australia

Having a My Health Record will mean your important patient information follows you no matter where you travel in Australia.

Advanced Care Plan

You can also upload your Advanced Care Plan if you have one, on your My Health Record.

Whose records?

In our Advocacy service we often encounter people needing assistance in accessing their medical records. This will, over time, be a thing of the past, where people can maintain control over their own health information via the My Health Record. This is vital when seeking follow-up treatment, understanding our own health care and knowing what has happened to us.

What about privacy?

This is a huge consideration, and many will know that the My Health Record, which used to be called the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record, has been in the planning stages for many years, in part because of the important considerations of protecting privacy. If you are really concerned, you can opt out.

Extra privacy protections

One of the new features of the My Health Record will be the ability to set it up so that you get a text if someone accesses your health record. This is not something our current paper based medical records provide. You will also be able to control certain aspects of it yourself.

To find out more please ensure you, your family and friends go to the government website for information and updates.

How you can help support quality healthcare for all

For some time, I have been thinking about people across the globe that access healthcare (health consumers). Unfortunately, most are not able to access the same quality of healthcare available in Australia. I wondered how we in the ‘Lucky Country’ could share our good fortune with others and help support quality healthcare for all.


Help support quality healthcare for all

To help support quality healthcare for all health consumers, Health Consumers’ Council will nominate each year a selected healthcare charity organisation located in Australia and overseas. We will provide those who attend our functions the opportunity to donate a gold coin go towards the nominated ‘good cause’. We hope you will support us in this endeavour to help improve healthcare for those less fortunate than ourselves.


Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia

In 2017 we are collecting donations for ‘Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’. ‘Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’ was founded in 1974 by husband and wife, Dr Reg Hamlin OBE and Dr Catherine Hamlin AC. I first came across the ‘Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’ in the 1990s and have since read more about it, including in the book, ‘The Hospital by the River’, by Dr Catherine Hamlin. (Pictured: Catherine Hamlin Co-founder of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia)


Catherine and her late husband Reg initially travelled to Ethiopia (as doctors) with the intent of staying for three years. Originally from Australia they dedicated their lives to the women of Ethiopia. Dr Catherine Hamlin turned 97 in January and she still lives in her home in the grounds of the Adis Ababa Fistula Hospital.


Catherine and Reg are part of my collection of heroes, people I admire for the contribution they have made to the lives of others and therefore the world. Today we constantly look at life through the media lens, making the world seem almost devoid of genuine acts of kindness. So, it is even more important to recognise genuine heroes like Catherine and Reg.


The Hamelin Clinic also has an office in New South Wales and I encourage you to visit their website here to learn more about this wonderful couple, their staff and women the Clinic heals.


Louise Ford | Consumer & Community Engagement Manager

Vote for your health this Saturday

Vote for your health this Saturday, make your vote count and read about the public health policies that will affect West Australians.

The wait is over, this Saturday March 11 you and others across WA will vote on the future of our State. The 2017 WA Public Health Pre-Election Forum was held on Tuesday February 14, providing an opportunity for the major political parties to present their public health policies. The following is a summary of what some of our politicians had to say about their party’s public health policies:

Vote for your health

Liberal Party of Western Australia – Health Policies

WA Health Minister John Day commented on the ‘fantastic’ health system that we as Western Australians enjoy while also mentioning that health is an ongoing concern where there is always more to be done.

  • Health Minister Day spoke about WA’s progress in decreasing tobacco consumption through the ‘Make Smoking History’ message. Health Minister Day indicated that, should he be re-elected, the Liberal Party would push to make it illegal for under 18’s to sell cigarettes and cigarette products, as well as banning the sale of cigarettes at large events and festivals.
  • Health Minister Day allocated a further 12 million dollars per year to grants in medical research. Moving forward Health Minister Day said that there needed to be greater emphasis on patient-centred research and that he was keen to make progress in this area.
  • Health Minister Day noted that at the end of last year, 70% of women in the third trimester of pregnancy had been vaccinated against whooping cough and should his government be re-elected they would aim to make changes to legislation to train midwives to administer the whooping cough vaccine with the aim of making that percentage even higher.
  • On the subject of Aboriginal Health, Health Minister Day said that his government was committed to working collaboratively with Aboriginal people and communities and they would ensure that healthcare remained culturally appropriate.

Click here to read more


Western Australian Labor Party – Health Policies

Roger Cook from the Western Australian Labor Party commented on Australia’s robust health system but fears for a public health system under duress. Mr. Cook suggested that ‘data from our patients and hospitals would guide the story and direction of healthcare for the future’.

If elected, Shadow Minister Cook outlined a range of policy initiatives from his government.

  • The development of Western Australia’s first ‘Medihotel’ – designed for discharged patients and offering specialist care while patients recuperate. Medihotels will essentially free up hospital beds, allowing patients to be seen and treated more efficiently.
  • In order to reduce the strain on emergency departments, a Labor government plans to introduce ‘Urgent Care Clinics’ whose purpose will be to service patients at an alternative setting where the appropriate care can be provided.
  • Promoting a message of ‘prevention is better than cure’, Roger Cook says, if elected, his government will focus on health promotion through active living as well as mental and social health. A ‘Let’s Prevent’ pilot program will be introduced to address the growing numbers of people diagnosed with diabetes.
  • A focus around changing the culture towards unhealthy lifestyles will be brought about through restricting alcohol advertising, including on Transperth as well as tightening tobacco laws if Labor is successful at the state election.

The Greens Western Australia – Health Policies

Alison Xamon spoke on behalf of The Greens Western Australia stating ‘they will act as a strong and determined voice in the legislative parliament, particularly around the issue of mental health’.

  • If elected, The Greens have identified a need to focus on health in a holistic way by addressing systemic disadvantage and asking ‘how are people living?’ Understanding the social determinants of health and how they impact mental and physical health will be a key strategy of the Greens approach.
  • The Greens will focus on early intervention and the barriers to accessing services believing that once an individual is in acute care, they have ‘already been let down by the system’.
  • Alcohol and other drugs (AOD) are another key focus and Ms. Xamon indicated that The Greens would re-address the crisis by treating and understanding the problem as a health issue – not solely a legal issue. The Greens will stop the ramping up of this issue and recognise the impact it has on Aboriginal and disadvantaged communities.

Click here to read more

We hope this short and sweet health policy outline of the key political parties public health initiatives will give you the confidence to vote for your health this Saturday March 11, towards a stronger, innovative and well-resourced health system. Make your vote count.


Bronte Duncan | Advocacy Officer| Health Consumers’ Council (WA)

Telehealth, valuable, affordable & life saving for patients

Australia’s first large-scale trial of telehealth monitoring chronically ill patients at home reduced mortality by 40% in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria.

It also reduced hospital admissions by 36%, length of stay in hospital by 42% and Medical Benefits Scheme expenditure by 24% through savings in cost of GP visits, specialist visits and procedures carried out.

In a 12 month long trial CSIRO researchers  provided 287 patients with a telehealth device that included participant/clinician video conferencing capabilities, messaging features and the delivery of clinical and study specific questionnaires, as well as vital signs devices to monitor their ECG, heart rate, spirometry, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, body weight and body temperature, with glucometry an optional add-on.

Patients reported improvements in anxiety, depression and quality of life, with many finding that home monitoring gave them a better understanding of their chronic conditions.

Jack Fernihough, a participant in the trial, attributed the telehealth technology to saving his life when it picked up the early signs his heart was under increased stress, allowing him to receive lifesaving surgery.

“In April this year I had a triple bypass and without the monitor we wouldn’t have known that there was anything seriously wrong,” Mr Fernihough said.

“It found out things about my heart that I wouldn’t have known about until it was too late and I’d probably be gone by now.”

CSIRO lead researcher Dr Rajiv Jayasena said the 12-month trial enabled chronic disease patients to self-manage their conditions at home through the provision of telehealth services.

“Aged patients with multiple chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or chronic lung disease account for more than 70 per cent of our health system expenditure,” Dr Jayasena said.

Health workers can assess changes in their patient’s conditions remotely and provide appropriate care interventions earlier to help them stay out of hospital.

Djerriwarrh Health Services’ Telehealth nurse, Lay Yean Woo, said was a very easy process to monitor her patient’s health results daily.

“I can see the information in real-time, I can monitor them, following up with a phone call if there’s any issues with their health,” Ms Yean Woo said.

“Also with the time that has been freed up I can look after more new clients being referred to me.”

Dr Javasena said more than 500,000 Australians aged over 65 would be good candidates for at-home telemonitoring.

Telehealth returned $5 for every dollar it cost. Applied over the country it would save the health budget more than $3 billion a year.

By Frank Smith – HCC Blog Contributor

Do you have a chronic condition and live in a remote region of Western Australia?

Click here to find out more about WA Telehealth services.

Do you live in a remote region of Western Australia and require health advocacy?

Health Consumers’ Council (WA) (HCC) Advocacy Service can help you navigate the health system and help you understand and support your healthcare rights. HCC can help you find and access health services and assist you in providing feedback about your health experience. This free service is available to anyone in WA. HCC has onsite Telehealth video conferencing equipment available to assist consumers in regional areas. Call (08) 9221 3422 or FREECALL 1800 620 780 to speak to an advocate.

Volunteering good for mental health

VOLUNTEERING in middle and older age is linked to good mental health and emotional wellbeing, according to a survey of 5000 British adults. Researchers Drs Faiza Tabassum, John Mohan and Peter Smith mined responses to the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), which is conducted every two years on a representative sample of adults living in Britain.

The survey included a wide range of questions on how participants spend their leisure time and a battery of questions to measure mental wellbeing. Around one in five respondents (21 per cent) said they had volunteered. Women tended to volunteer more than men. Almost a quarter of those aged 60 to 74 said they volunteered, but only 17 per cent of the youngest age group. No association was seen between volunteering and mental health in people under 40.

The mental health scores were better (lower) among those who volunteered than among those who had never done so—10.7 vs 11.4—across the entire sample, irrespective of age. The average score was the best (lowest) among those who were frequent volunteers and worst (highest) among those who never volunteered. A positive association between volunteering and good mental health and emotional wellbeing became apparent at around the age of 40 and continued up into old age (80+). The researchers speculate that volunteering at younger ages may just be viewed as another obligation, while social roles and family connections in early middle age may spur people to become involved in community activities, such as in their child’s school.

The researchers were not able to gauge the extent of ‘informal’ volunteering, such as helping out neighbours, so couldn’t capture the full spectrum of voluntary activities. “Volunteering might provide those groups with greater opportunities for beneficial activities and social contacts, which in turn may have protective effects on health status. With the ageing of the population, it is imperative to develop effective health promotion for this last third of life, so that those living longer are healthier,” they write.

Previous research indicates that people who volunteer are likely to have more resources, a larger social network, and more power and prestige, all of which have knock-on effects on physical and mental health, they point out. “Volunteering may also provide a sense of purpose, because regular volunteering helps maintain social networks, which are especially important for older people who are often socially isolated,” they add.

Curtin University research professor Simone Pettigrew said the British results almost certainly also applied to Australia. “There have been some studies showing a relationship between volunteering and well-being among older Australians, mainly by Jeni Warburton from La Trobe University. Our (Curtin’s) random controlled trial that is close to finishing is aiming to test exactly this in WA by looking at both the physical and psychological predictors and consequences of volunteering among older people (60+ years). I’m hoping we’ll have some interesting results to share with you in due course,” she said.

By Frank Smith – HCC Blog Contributor

If you are interested in volunteering for Health Consumers’ Council (WA) call (08) 9221 3422 and ask for Lucy Palermo or email

Women’s Health – Am I normal?

Lucy Palermo | Marketing & Communications Coordinator | Health Consumers’ Council (WA) Inc

This year during Women’s Health Week (September 5th to 9th) theme is ‘An I normal?’. Women’s Health Week is dedicated to all women across Australia, to focus on their health, learn more and take action. Every year Jean Hailes (Australian Women’s Health Organisation) holds a comprehensive survey of women’s fears and needs. They survey both consumers and clinicians. It is interesting to see the disconnect between what the consumers think and what the clinicians think (see summary below). This research highlights the importance of asking consumers about their health, their role in improving health care and service design.

The data collected includes; women’s top five health concerns, what women are keen to know more about, and what health professionals think women don’t understand. This year the findings have formed the basis of the theme, ‘Am I normal?’. Questions answered by the survey included:

  • “Why do almost a quarter of women consider weight management to be their biggest health concern – more than cancer (17%) and chronic pain (8%)?
  • Who do women most compare their bodies to?
  • Why do more than 65% of women not have regular sexual health checks?
  • Where does the survey reveal gaps between what women worry about and what health professionals think women worry most about?
  • How many women went on a crash diet in the last 12 months?
  • How often do women visit the doctor every year?”


The complete report can be found here.


The results of the survey found these were the top five health concerns for women.



Compared to the top five health concerns as reported by health professionals.



Every woman at some stage has asked themselves ‘Am I normal?’. It is a perfectly acceptable thing to question whether our health is what it should be. But sometimes it is easier to say what is not normal, as everyone’s normal can be slightly different, which is still ok. If you do have any fears or questions regarding your health, don’t put it off. Go and see your GP and have your questions answered.

HCC Consumer and Community Engagement Program offers support, education and networking for health consumers as well as health providers who want to be part of making a better, more patient-centred health care system. We believe in the importance of authentic, productive partnerships in health care to create the health service we all aspire to have. Click here to find out more.