Enhancing prevention in primary health care – Phase 2

Project title: Strengthening the role of Primary Health Networks in the prevention of chronic disease

Start date: August 2018

Estimated end date: June 2021

What is the issue?

Primary health care has an important role in assessing, preventing and managing the most prevalent modifiable risk factors for chronic disease. Australia’s Primary Health Networks (PHNs) can play a role in developing partnerships with key stakeholders to commission and coordinate new preventive services and programs and to integrate clinical and population health approaches to chronic disease prevention.  It is not clear, however, what this looks like in practice.

How is the project addressing the issue?

Following the first phase of our research into strengthening the role of PHNs in prevention, this project aims to identify what prevention approaches are feasible, are working well, or could potentially work well, in primary health care.

The project will identify a cardiovascular disease prevention initiative with PHNs and stakeholders, then trial and evaluate this prevention initiative across three to four PHNs to determine feasibility of scaling up such an initiative across all PHNs in Australia. The trial will be implemented in two phases and a number of stages using an adaptive model.

Relevance for practice

Through identifying the barriers to prevention approaches in primary care, such as practice facilitation (which has the potential to play a key role in primary care redesign), there is the potential  to improve the coherence of the PHN effort in reducing the burden of chronic disease in Australia and in using resources more effectively to better prevent and manage chronic disease.

Project lead

Professor Andrew Wilson, The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre, The University of Sydney

Dr Carissa Bonner, The University of Sydney


Professor Lyndal Trevena, The University of Sydney

Associate Professor Kevin McGeechan, The University of Sydney

Former team members

Dr Melissa Hobbs, The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre

Funding for this research has been provided from the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF). The MRFF provides funding to support health and medical research and innovation, with the objective of improving the health and wellbeing of Australians. MRFF funding has been provided to The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre under the MRFF Boosting Preventive Health Research Program. Further information on the MRFF is available at www.health.gov.au/mrff.


The first step of the project involved conducting a Prevention Workshop in August 2018, attended by representatives of more than 20 PHNs, as well as academics and Department of Health representatives. Stakeholders showcased some examples of prevention approaches in primary care and discussed what works and what doesn’t work when implementing prevention initiatives and the types of prevention approaches that could potentially be implemented by PHNs.

Following the workshop, a Community of Practice (PHN Prevention Network) was established based on feedback from PHNs that there was no information sharing mechanism or support network to advocate for the common interests of PHNs in relation to prevention of chronic disease. The purpose of the CoP is to provide a way for PHN representatives to share and exchange knowledge, tips, and best practices, ask questions of their colleagues, provide support for each other, encourage the free flow of ideas, and provide a forum to identify solutions to common problems.

We are currently in the planning stage for the trial of a practice facilitation model and are seeking stakeholder input.