Special report prepared by Professor Lyn Littlefield OAM FAPS, APS Executive Director and Jill Giese MAPS, APS Executive Officer

The Australian health system faces a number of significant challenges including the rising costs of health care, the ageing of the population, health workforce shortages, the growing burden of largely preventable chronic diseases associated with lifestyle risk factors, and the need to embrace efficiencies in service delivery associated with advances in information technology. These challenges are occurring in the context of a health system that delivers significantly more services through primary care than in previous generations.

In acknowledging these serious challenges and trends, the Australian Government has committed to a major health reform agenda by establishing three significant reform investigations through the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission, the National Primary Health Care Strategy Taskforce and the National Preventative Health Taskforce. The reports from each of these reform bodies were released last year. The Government has engaged in a large scale consultation process regarding the recommendations of these reports, and is due to make some important policy decisions on health reforms as a result of this process in the coming months.

Although decisions on the Government's health reforms are still to be determined, there have been some clear indications of their broad nature involving a major restructure of the health system, a significantly increased role for allied health practitioners, a focus on prevention and early intervention, and increased delivery of services through an enhanced primary care system. There is scope for the profession of psychology to play a major role in delivering effective health services to the community within the context of these reforms, and the APS has undertaken considerable advocacy efforts to ensure the Government is fully aware of psychology's potential contribution to the health of Australians.

This special report provides details of the broad recommendations of the Government's three major health reform reports, and, within the context of the indicative areas of reform, presents the APS recommendations for utilising psychological expertise to address the health challenges in the Australian community. Also included is a review of the evidence for the effectiveness of psychological interventions in the prevention and treatment of lifestyle-related chronic diseases, and a focus on the important area
of electronically mediated psychological interventions which are likely to play a significant role in future health service delivery.