Primary Health Networks and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health

Sophia Couzos, Dea Delaney-Thiele and Priscilla Page
Med J Aust 2016; 204 (6): . || doi: 10.5694/mja15.00975
Published online: 4 April 2016


  • The Australian Government has established that the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is a priority for the newly established 31 Primary Health Networks (PHNs). Efforts to reduce the high hospitalisation rates of Aboriginal people will require PHNs to build formal participatory structures with Aboriginal health organisations to support best practice service models.
  • There are precedents as to how PHNs can build formal partnerships with Aboriginal community controlled health services (ACCHSs), establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander steering committee to guide strategic plan development, and work towards optimising comprehensive primary care.
  • All health services within PHN boundaries can be supported to systematically and strategically improve their responsiveness to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by assessing systems of care, adopting best practice models, embedding quality assurance activity, and participating in performance reporting.
  • PHNs can be guided to adopt an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-specific quality improvement framework, agree to local performance measures, review specialist and other outreach services to better integrate with primary health care, enhance the cultural competence of services, and measure and respond to progress in reducing potentially preventable hospitalisations.
  • Through collaborations and capacity building, PHNs can transition certain health services towards greater Aboriginal community control.
  • These proposals may assist policy makers to develop organisational performance reporting on PHN efforts to close the gap in Aboriginal health disparity.

  • 1 College of Medicine and Dentistry, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD
  • 2 Anton Breinl Research Centre for Health Systems Strengthening, Townsville, QLD
  • 3 Nepean Aboriginal Health Service, Sydney, NSW



We acknowledge the assistance of Shaun Solomon, Head of Indigenous Health at the Mount Isa Centre for Rural and Remote Health, James Cook University, for reviewing an early draft.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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