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The path to healthy communities – from data to delivery

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Strong primary health care is the cornerstone of an efficient and fair health system. As the 2014 Primary Health Care (PHC) Research Conference will be held on 23–25 July in Canberra, this issue includes articles with a focus on general practice, illustrating the investments this area needs and its important contributions to community health.

Australia has universal health coverage and health accounts for 8.9% of its gross domestic product — much less than other comparable countries (http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/countries/australia) — which should promote equitable access based on need. However, 8% of patients already delay seeing a general practitioner because of cost (http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4839.0main+features32010-11) and studies have confirmed that preventive checks, such as for blood pressure, will be further reduced if a copayment is required, resulting in increased subsequent costs for treating complications and chronic conditions (MJA 2014; 200: 558-559).

Chronic conditions are increasingly prevalent, due to an ageing population and unabated epidemics of risk factors, especially obesity. Ironically, survivors of cancer are living long enough to be at risk of other chronic diseases, and Berry…