CHA wants GPs to look for poverty symptoms

Look for signs

General practitioners should screen patients for chronic diseases that the World Health Organisation has identified as a key risk factors that generate poverty, says Catholic Health Australia, reports The Catholic Weekly.

CHA chief executive Martin Laverty told a NSW Health summit in Sydney this week that cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and other chronic diseases could be identified and treated earlier if a socio-economic screening tool was used in doctor’s surgeries to identify poverty-related diseases. 

Mr Laverty presented a plan for state and territory governments to reduce long-term hospital expenditure through such actions, outside of hospital care. He said a report commissioned by CHA had “found the lowest 20 per cent of income earners in Australia suffer twice the amount of avoidable chronic disease as do the top 20 per cent earners”. 

“The WHO names poverty as a risk factor for avoidable disease, as does decades of evidence showing inadequate income, poor housing, incomplete education and other social factors as determinants of whether a person will suffer an avoidable chronic disease,” he said. 

“The Canadian Medical Association in a July report said tackling poverty was its first priority for health care and parts of Canada are now screening for poverty in doctor’s surgeries. Australia should follow suit, and address poverty as a health determinant.” 

Mr Laverty said the Canadian general practice poverty screening test was incorporated into a standard general practice consultation. Patients were asked if they had difficulty making ends meet at the end of the month. If they answered yes, doctors considered poverty as a disease risk factor. 

“By assessing for poverty alongside these other risk factors, doctors will better determine if a person has a chronic disease and treat it accordingly,” Mr Laverty said. 

FULL STORY CHA wants GPs to look for poverty symptoms

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