Global Health Care Issues - Australia


Fraser Clarke

Worldwide a vast range of medical issues affect different parts of the planet to different degrees. Some are global, some are regional and some can be specific to a much smaller area.

As a medic looking at taking your career overseas, knowing as much as you can about a country’s health issues can be the key behind successfully securing a new job. As well as this it can also play a major role in helping you to decide where your future could lie.

Here, therefore, is the third in our exclusive new series of guides to the major health issues facing the countries we most commonly work with. In this article we will look at one of the most popular countries we deal with - Australia.

Coronary Heart Disease

Coronary heart disease is one of the world’s biggest killers, and it remains Australia’s biggest single cause of death.

Rates in the 1980s were amongst the world's highest, however since then they have been gradually dropping throughout the country. The latest detailed statistics on the subject (which were published in 2011) showed that around 600 out of every 100,000 deaths in the country have been as a direct result of the condition.

Coronary heart disease occurs when the arteries leading to the heart become blocked by fatty substances. It is closely linked to a poor diet, smoking, high levels of cholesterol and diabetes and commonly leads to heart attacks.

The condition is incurable, however lifestyle alterations such as partaking in more exercise, cutting out fatty foods and quitting smoking can allow a patient to manage it more effectively.

Coronary heart disease mainly affects older Australians these days, and rates are dropping amongst younger people as lifestyle and education on the condition continues to improve. For now, however, it remains the country’s biggest healthcare issue.

Inequalities Between Aboriginal and Non-Indigenous Health

Australia is home to a unique group of indigenous people - the Aborigines and Strait Islanders.

These people lead a unique way of life that mixes modern technology with ancient traditions. Their lifestyle however is increasingly being seen as unhealthy, with dangerous jobs and smoking highly common, whilst more mainstream, modern, healthcare is shunned by many of the population’s elderly individuals who refuse to trust it.

Perhaps unsurprisingly therefore this has lead to the life expectancy for the Aboriginal people dropping to over 10 years lower than the country’s average.

The Australian Government has a big task on its hands therefore if it is aiming to work with the Aboriginal people to deal with the all too blatant inequalities that exist in the healthcare they receive. To do this it needs to build up a trusting relationship between the healthcare sector and the Aboriginal community, something that it is currently failing to do.

Lung Cancer

As with everywhere else in the world at this moment in time, Cancer is one of the biggest issues facing the health of the nation. In Australia lung Cancer is the form of the issue which causes the most deaths.

85% of lung Cancer cases are caused by the use of (or excessive exposure to) tobacco. Its symptoms can leave people short of breath, coughing aggressively and even leads to the coughing up of blood if it is not caught at an early stage.

Whilst consuming tobacco is the most common contributing factor to lung Cancer, those exposed to chemicals such as radon, asbestos and nickel will also find themselves at an increased risk of the condition.

Around 5% of all deaths in Australia each year are as a result of lung Cancer, with the condition manifesting itself in two forms, small cell and non small cell.

Small cell is when the Cancer has not spread to the lymph glands, and this can usually be treated with chemotherapy. In non small cases - where the Cancer has spread further - more powerful chemotherapy or radiotherapy is often combined with surgery to help attempt to remove the Cancerous tumours.

The success of these operations can vary depending on the health of the patient, how far the tumours have spread and how early the initial signs were detected.

Cancer awareness in Australia is high. Most people know how to check for the warning signs, although fear still prevents many from visiting their GPs at the earliest possible stage to get checked over. With global Cancer rates set to rise over the coming year - unless a cure is found - it remains a major issue for healthcare globally to try and combat.

Mental Illness

The number of people suffering from mental illnesses globally is on the rise, as the stigma is lost and people become more aware of their mental wellbeing.

Australia does not buck the global trend. Around 1 in 5 ‘Aussies’ experience the symptoms of a mental health disorder every year. Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the country, affecting 14.4% of those battling issues, whilst depression was one of the country’s leading causes of suicide.

Anxiety is the feeling of unease or fear that many of us experience prior to a major event or moment in our lives. This is perfectly natural, however clinical anxiety is when patients experience this feeling on a more continual basis - even when performing simple tasks like holding a conversation with someone or (in more severe cases) leaving the house.

In order to try and help those with mental health issues in the country, and in order to reduce the steadily increasing suicide rate, Australia has invested generously in its mental health services. More information than ever is available for citizens, whilst a range of centres have been opened to allow individuals to speak with specialists about the issues that they are facing.

Mental health is now more widely known about than ever before. However a stigma still remains, especially amongst the elderly.  With an ageing population Australia faces a difficult task to try and get everyone to speak openly about their mental health.


Also linked with smoking and the lungs is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, normally referred to as COPD. COPD causes the death of around 220 out of every 100,000 people yearly, and this rate has remained steady over the past 40 years.

The condition is common amongst older smokers and former smokers, especially men, and often goes undetected until it becomes more severe. It causes chronic breathlessness as a result of damage done to the lungs, and also puts patients at a higher risk of chest infections.

Whilst smoking tobacco is the major cause, inhaling harmful dust or fumes is also a major factor in the development of COPD - especially amongst the elderly population - with new health & safety laws outlawing the working conditions that caused these issues.

The damage caused to the lungs by COPD is permanent, and the condition gets progressively worse the longer time goes on. Despite this a mixture of medication, inhalers and exercise routines will keep the lungs performing as well as they can, and should make breathing slightly easier.

COPD rates in Australia have remained at a similar level for a long period now, however recent statistics have shown that many young people are turning their backs on tobacco - the main factor causing the illness. It may take time to be proven, however in the future rates should be dramatically lower than they currently are.

Start your journey today by registering on our website.