Learning from communities in Tasmania: the Anticipatory Care project

The Prevention Centre is working with the Tasmanian Department of Health to reduce chronic disease in Tasmania by identifying those at risk of poor health and engaging with them to prevent or slow their deterioration.

The Anticipatory Care project will look at psychosocial as well as physical risk factors for poor health, and engage those at risk through building relationships and recognising the social context in which they live.

Principal project officer Flora Dean, of the Tasmanian Department of Health, said the project would draw on local knowledge, including the lived experience of consumers, to develop and deliver services to help people improve their own health outcomes.

“We are looking at the whole system and how that supports health and wellbeing, and also better management of health conditions. It’s not only providing clinical resources – it’s about putting the right supports and networks around people,” she said.

Anticipatory care was first recognised in the 1960s in the UK and the Netherlands, where GPs found that taking a population approach to anticipating needs of their patients, and considering where social or other needs might best be met, resulted in significantly better health outcomes than those in neighbouring communities.

Tasmania embarked on the Anticipatory Care project after the Healthy Tasmania Five Year Strategic Plan identified as a priority tackling chronic disease through finding new methods of anticipatory care.

Funded by the Australian Government, the action learning project brings together the Prevention Centre with the Tasmanian Department of Health, local research partners from the University of Tasmania, Primary Health Tasmania and the Tasmanian Health Service to look at what anticipatory care is already being undertaken communities, with a view to learning what will work more broadly.

The Prevention Centre will evaluate the project and provide systems thinking support.

Four diverse communities are participating in the Tasmanian Anticipatory Care project. They are Ulverstone in north west Tasmania, led by a local GP practice in Ulverstone; Flinders Island, led by the local health co-ordinating group in partnership with Flinders Island Aboriginal Association; the northern suburbs of Launceston, led by two local neighbourhood houses; and Clarence, led by Clarence City Council.

These communities were identified as having high rates of chronic disease as well as local leadership and a willingness to engage in the project. Each has received funding to employ local community members to gather evidence around what they are already doing that can be called anticipatory care, what is working well, and what areas can be improved.

Ms Dean said the project would contribute to the evidence base around place-based and community development approaches to supporting health and wellbeing and would support communities to make sustainable changes that would last after the research was completed by 2020.

“We know communities aren’t a blank canvas, they are just getting on with it and they are already doing a lot in the anticipatory care space. We will be looking at how effective it is, what support does it require, and how more effective it can be.

“We are hoping we can achieve effective relevant and sustainable approaches over time that will reveal and strengthen ways of working across the state,” she said.