Disparities in access to health care in Australia for people with mental health conditions

L. Corscadden, E. J. Callander, S. M. Topp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Objective: One aim of Australia's Equally Well National Consensus Statement is to improve monitoring of the physical health of people with mental health conditions, which includes measures of accessibility and people's experiences of physical health care services. The present analysis contributes to this aim by using population survey data to evaluate whether, and in what domains, Australians with a mental health condition experience barriers in accessing care when compared with Australians without a mental health condition. Methods: The 2016 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey includes a sample of 5248 Australian adults. Access to care was measured using 39 survey questions from before to after reaching services. Multivariable logistic regression models were used to identify disparities in barriers to access, comparing experiences of people with and without a self-reported mental health condition, adjusting for age, sex, immigrant status, income and self-rated health. Results: Australians with mental health conditions were more likely to experience barriers for 29 of 39 access measures (odds ratio (OR) >1.55 P < 0.05). On average, the prevalence of barriers was 10 percentage points higher for those with a condition. When measured as ratios, the largest barriers for people with mental health conditions were for affordability. When measured as percentage point differences, the largest disparities were observed for experiences of not being treated with respect in hospital. Disparities remained after adjusting for income, rurality, education, immigrant status and self-rated health for 25 of 39 measures. Conclusion: Compared with the rest of the community, Australians with mental health conditions have additional challenges negotiating the health system, and are more likely to experience barriers to access to care across a wide range of measures. Understanding the extent to which people with mental health conditions experience barriers throughout the pathway to accessing care is crucial to inform care planning and delivery for this vulnerable group. Results may inform improvements in regular performance monitoring of disparities in access for people with mental health conditions. What is known about this topic?: A stated national aim of the Equally Well National Consensus Statement is to improve monitoring of the physical health and well-being of people with mental health conditions through measures of service accessibility and people's experiences of physical healthcare services. What does this paper add?: This paper highlights areas in which health services are not providing equal access to overall care for people with mental health conditions. The analysis offers quantitative evidence of 'red flag areas' where people with mental health conditions are significantly more likely to experience barriers to access to care. What are the implications for practitioners?: Systematic attention across the health system to making care more approachable and accessible for people with mental health conditions is needed. Practitioners may be engaged to discuss possible interventions to improve access disparities for people with mental health conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)619-627
Number of pages9
JournalAustralian Health Review
Volume43
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • accessibility of healthcare services
  • equity
  • vulnerable groups

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