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Primary Health Networks and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health

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One of six priorities set by the Australian Government is for Primary Health Networks (PHNs) to focus on the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.1 Announced in the 2014–15 federal Budget, PHNs aim to coordinate primary health care provision especially for those at risk of poor health outcomes. There are 31 PHNs across Australia with several formed from consortia of Local Hospital Networks (LHNs). Operational and flexible funding of up to $842 million was committed for PHNs over 3 years from 2015–16.2 It is timely for PHNs to consider how they will improve health care coordination in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in their respective regions.

Efforts to reduce the high hospitalisation rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (hereafter referred to as Aboriginal) people will require PHNs to build formal participatory structures to support best practice service models. Comprehensive primary health care can then be shaped by the needs of the community rather than by ad hoc factors or reactions to financial incentives and health care funding arrangements.3,4 Collaborations with Aboriginal community controlled health services (ACCHSs) within PHN regions have been recommended.5,