With cost-of-living a focus of Federal Parliament this week, GPs across Australia have come out in strong support of introducing Medicare subsidies for critical children’s health checks.
In a nationwide newsGP poll, nearly half of the respondents said access to subsidised children’s health checks for the first 2,000 days would benefit more than 100 of their patients.
The Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP) is calling for the next Federal Budget to include funding for universal annual children’s health checks for the first 2,000 days. It’s one of several measures the College is recommending to improve access to care and affordability in its pre-Budget submission 2024-25.
RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said subsidised annual health checks will help all children get an equal start in life.
“We know more needs to be done to improve access to affordable care for all Australians,” she said.
“Just last week, the Productivity Commission released data showing the number of Australians who delayed or avoided seeing their doctor because they could not afford it almost doubled in the last year.
“Funding for universal children’s health checks is one of several measures in our pre-Budget submission that will improve access to affordable care, make Australia healthier, and reduce pressure on our hospitals and ambulances.
“Australia’s GPs are strongly in support of this measure, which would benefit children, parents and caregivers across the nation. There are five million children under five in Australia who could benefit from universal annual children’s health checks to support the kids and their families, and help make sure they’re school-ready.
“When children miss out on essential care it impacts the rest of their life. The evidence shows the first 2,000 days is a critical time which sets a child up for life. What happens in this period has lifelong impacts on a person’s physical and mental health.
“This is why the NDIS review recommended children’s health checks be expanded and made nationally consistent, so no child misses out, and any issues are identified early and managed.
“General practice keeps people healthy, and it needs to be affordable for everyone. It is the smartest and most cost-effective investment the government can make. If we can improve the health of people in poor or fair health, the Productivity Commission found it would result in an extra $4 billion GDP growth annually – this was calculated in 2017, so it would likely be much more today, given the increasing burden of disease.
“I urge the government to use the next Budget to continue its work to strengthen Medicare, and improve access to affordable care, starting with critical health checks for children.”