Community Health: A Future Boom Industry

by frank-stuart
22SEP

Are you considering a degree in health science, but are unsure if there will be demand for your skills? With competing priorities for the health dollar, community health has been highlighted as an area for opportunities, and demand for community health services is only set to increase in the decades ahead. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons for this demand, and the range of career opportunities that may come with it, from health promotion to empower patients in managing their own health to treating patients with chronic conditions to help them stay out of hospital.

Ageing population

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the proportion of Australia’s population aged over 65 increased to 14.7% in 2014, and this is predicted to rise even faster over the next decade. This is a result not only of increased life expectancy, but also lower birth rates. Australia’s ageing population will draw on more health services, especially at the end of their lives.

Ageing Australian Population trend and prediction graph
Courtesy of treasury.gov.au

With the strain on the hospital budget dollar, it makes sense for more services to be provided in the community. An increase in community health services such as hospital in the home can help the elderly remain in their homes for treatment. This may also help to reduce the burden of people remaining in hospital while waiting for nursing home placements.

The move to chronic disease management

Chronic diseases include conditions such as cancer, diabetes and asthma to name a few. According the federal government, chronic diseases are the leading cause of death and disability in Australia. Readmissions to hospital are high for this cohort of patients. One way to minimise the burden on hospitals is to increase community health services so that more care can be managed external to the hospital environment. Basic checks can be carried out through community health programs, and patients can be assisted to better manage their conditions and be more empowered in understanding their medications.

Preventative management

Health promotion activities are a vital part of community health. The importance of prevention versus cure is being emphasised more and more, particularly when it comes to things like obesity, for example. Various healthy eating and activity community health campaigns are in place to assist people in managing their own food intake and exercise requirements. Staff are needed to not only run the various programs, but also to act in support roles.

Mental health

With the increase in identification and treatment of mental health issues, the annual cost of mental illness in Australia has been estimated by the Bureau of Statistics at $20 billion, including lack of work productivity. In recent years, there has been a decrease in the use of mental health institutions, and a move towards community health services. This changing focus means that community health services are likely to continue to grow in this area. Stigma surrounding mental illness is another factor that is likely to increase the use of community mental health services, rather than hospital services.

Career options in community health

With the changing face of the health system, now just might be a good time to consider a career in community health. The first step is to obtain qualifications. A Bachelor of Health Science (Community Health) can qualify you to work in a number of different job areas, from youth and community work to health promotion, corporate health, health advocacy and social work.

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