New approach to health care in China
8 September 2010
Switching to a system of general practice medicine in China would have a significant impact on the death toll caused by risk factors such as high blood pressure and smoking, says a University of Sydney health specialist.
Lyndal Trevena, head of Sydney Medical School's Office for Global Health, says that extending the spread of general practice medicine in China and increasing the number of GPs could potentially avoid one in five deaths.
Associate Professor Trevena, who is taking part in a University of Sydney translational health symposium at the Shanghai Expo next Monday (13 September), is working with partners in Shanghai on a project to help China and Australia learn from each other about primary health care.
Although the Chinese Government has embraced the idea of a shift to general practice health care, there are only a small number of GPs in China and general practice is still a relatively new discipline. In China, most health care is delivered through the hospital system.
But Professor Trevena says the benefits of switching to general practice medicine would be significant in a country where it is estimated that 11.7 per cent of deaths can be attributed to high blood pressure, 7.9 per cent to cigarette smoking and 6.8 per cent to physical inactivity.
"Primary care is better placed than large hospitals to monitor risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking, diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes," says Professor Trevena. "Many of the most effective strategies to address these risk factors can be implemented in primary care.
"GPs can commence drug treatments if appropriate and through the development of an ongoing relationship with the patient they can manage multiple risk factors at the same time.
"This 'whole patient' approach and continuity of care by GPs within the community can tackle these major contributors to mortality and have a major impact on the burden of disease in China."
Professor Trevena has been working with specialists in China, and gave a presentation last year at the Shanghai Medical Association's GP Annual Conference.
In 2011 Dr Liu Yao from Fudan University and Zhongshan Hospital in Shanghai will start a three-month visit to the University of Sydney to see how Australian GPs are trained, and assess what elements can be adapted for use in China.
"It will be fascinating to see how China develops a system of primary care suited to the Chinese situation and it will be important for us to continue to work together to learn from each other," says Associate Professor Trevena. "And I expect that in developing its new system of primary care, China will have much to teach Australia."
Contact: Richard North
Phone: 02 9351 3191