Report: Allied Health Professions Australia Symposium

Overview of the 2023 Allied Health Professions Australia (AHPA) Member Policy Symposium in Melbourne, Victoria.

On 12 October 2023, Stephanie Santos, Policy and Advocacy Manager, Natasha Owens, Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer and Katie Beech, Policy Officer, attended the 2023 Allied Health Professions Australia (AHPA) Member Policy Symposium in Melbourne, Victoria.

Several other allied health peak bodies also attended the Symposium – the theme of the Symposium was focused on meeting the challenges for the allied health workforce in the future. The first session focused on policy challenges in First Nations equity in aged care and allied health; the second on using big data to drive evidence-based policy; and the third on ‘policy monsters’ and how we face them.

Below is a summary of each session:

Policy challenges: First Nations equity in aged care and allied health

  • There is a gap between the access to care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compared to the rest of the  Australian population;
  • Four of five people have a disability in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities;
  • Allied health professionals play a vital role in preventative healthcare;
  • It is essential  to use culturally sensitive language when referring to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, e.g. as clients and not patients;
  • The definition of cultural safety needs to be localised to meet the needs of the population;
  • To help close the gap, it is vital to ask what people, families and communities need; listen, connect with the community and understand each person on an individual level, be reflective, adapt and adjust.

Using big data to drive evidence-based policy

  • Healthcare professionals want streamlined services when accessing healthcare data;
  • Real-time data is needed for multidisciplinary care;
  • There are workforce shortages and a lack of data sources, which are currently contributing to pressures in our health system;
  • Digital policy is behind the mark in Australia and is currently undergoing rapid change. A national digital health strategy will be released later in 2023;
  • Administrative data is historical by the time it reaches clinicians due to the  time it takes to process and then access this data;
  • The goal is to see improvements in patient-reported outcome data;
  • How can we collect condition-specific data to help with the top ten disease causes? Like back pain, by condition rather than by profession.

Policy monsters: How do we face them?

  • Disability expenses are expected to increase from $35 billion per annum to 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) in the next few years;
  • A National Disability Services survey highlighted that 83% of respondents outlined that they are unsure of how they will continue to deliver their services;
  • Transparency in pricing is required;
  • We need to increase the workforce as numbers are currently declining;
  • Robust data and comparable benchmarking are required;
  • Government relations work is important to strengthen ties with members of parliament;
  • Policy and advocacy are voted as the number one member benefit (Dietitians Australia).