May 11, 2020
In a time when much of the public health sector’s efforts have been centred around topics such as testing, contact tracing and ICU capacity, let’s not forget the important role the primary prevention sector will need to play in the coming months.
HealthWest has a strong history of working alongside many of our members on primary prevention initiatives that work on the social determinants of health. Rather than working in acute service delivery, we work on the systems, structures and environments that keep people well, which can lie outside the health sector.
So what does primary prevention mean in this time?
In Victoria we have so far been fortunate enough to avoid the heavy impacts of COVID-19 on health systems and communities seen in countries like Italy and the USA. However, the strong and effective measures that have been taken to contain the virus have caused a crisis in other ways, like in employment, social inclusion and connectedness, and women’s safety.
These aspects of the crisis have the potential to strongly influence future health outcomes of communities impacted. We know that, in general, people experiencing social and economic disadvantage live shorter, less healthy lives.
While there is much we are yet to know about the impacts of this crisis locally, these are some questions we should all be asking in the coming months:
- Who in our community has been most impacted by job losses, social disconnection, isolation and gender inequality?
- What role can we play in reducing these impacts? Who do we need to partner with to strengthen our role in this?
- Are there groups in our population more heavily impacted than others? Were those groups already experiencing inequity before COVID-19?
- If we need to rebuild systems that have been disrupted by COVID-19 containment measures, how can they be rebuilt in a more equitable, accessible and sustainable way?
- What are some of the positives this crisis has brought us and how do we take them into a post-COVID world?
Primary prevention, with its focus on the social model of health and health equity, has much to offer in the recovery from this crisis, and many HealthWest members are aware of the crucial role we must play. Over the coming months HealthWest will work with our partners through the Western Region Primary Prevention Taskforce to keep these questions front and centre in our work with communities.
By Anna Vu, Prevention Manager