Primary Health Care Reform in Australia - Report to Support Australia’s First National Primary Health Care Strategy

How does Australia compare internationally?

In terms of overall health, according to Australia’s Health 2008, Australia’s level of health continues to improve overall. Moreover, in most aspects of health, Australia matches or leads other comparable countries (those from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)).37

Little comparable data is available on the importance and specific contribution of primary health care to the overall health of a nation, as most data is presented on total health spending. Figure 3 for example compares life expectancy and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) spending on health services and shows that the proportion of an economy devoted to health care varies considerably across countries and suggests that there is not a simple and consistent relationship between higher spending and life expectancy.

Figure 3: GDP on health and life expectancy, 2005-06


Figure 3: GDP on health and life expectancy, 2005-06
Source: OECD Health Data, 2008

Figure 3 shows that Australia’s spending on health in 2006, as a proportion of GDP, was in the mid-range of OECD countries, and health outcomes in terms of life expectancy were high.

International data shows Australia to be near the middle of comparable countries for the provision of health professionals. Table 3, looks at a number of health occupations across a number of comparable countries to Australia, but still only provides data for the health system rather than primary health care. This workforce data gives an indicative picture of supply, but there may be limits to how it is interpreted as it is a headcount and gives no indication of the person’s workload.

Table 3: Number of health professionals in selected countries


2000-2006, per 10,000 population

Aust

UK

US

Can

NZ

Neth

Physicians

25

23

26

19

21

37

Nurses/midwives

97

128

94

101

89

146

Dentists

11

10

16

12

4

5

Pharmacists

7

5

9

8

10

2


Source: WHO World Health Statistics, 2008

37Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2008. Australia’s health 2008, AIHW cat. no. AUS 99, AIHW, Canberra, p. 6.



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Page last updated 31 August, 2009