Guidelines for preventive activities in general practice

Screening, case finding and prevention principles

Opportunistic versus systematic prevention

      1. Opportunistic versus systematic prevention

Opportunistic versus systematic prevention

Most preventive activities are undertaken in Australia opportunistically; that is, when patients present for other reasons, with the preventive activity being an add-on.1
However, systematic approaches to register and recall patients for some specific targeted conditions are important, including childhood immunisations and screening for cervical, breast and colorectal cancers and diabetes. Proactive recall of patients for screening is warranted for high-risk groups, those who may have difficulty accessing services and for conditions where population coverage has been identified by the government as a public health priority.2
In Australia, there is an increasing number of Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items for health assessments in particular population groups, namely Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and adults, refugees, people with an intellectual disability, those aged 45–49 years with a risk factor and those aged ≥75 years. However, it is important that such ‘health checks’ involve preventive interventions where there is clear evidence of their effectiveness.

  1. Aldrich R, Kemp L, Williams JS, et al. Using socioeconomic evidence in clinical practice guidelines. BMJ 2003;327(7426):1283–85.
  2. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP). Smoking, nutrition, alcohol, physical activity (SNAP): A population health guide to behavioural risk factors in general practice. 2nd edn. RACGP, 2015 [Accessed 16 October 2023].
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