Harbinger Consultants

Creative Sustainability :: Place, People, Product, Potential, Partnership + Pollinating

CONNECT | Joining the Dots

We are constantly undertaking environmental scanning, joining dots across seemingly disparate bodies of research and information. This week we attended Regional Development Australia Brisbane‘s CLICK! Digital Expo where the findings of the Brisbane Digital Audit. The Audit was jointly commissioned by Regional Development Australia Brisbane and Brisbane Marketing and found that there is much to do to build digital capability in Brisbane. However, according to the report, the Health Care and Social Assistance Industry is lagging in its digital capability. This is the second report commissioned by the Regional Development Australia Brisbane that has found vulnerabilities in this industry. The Skills Shortages in the Greater Brisbane Labour Market 2012-2021 report projected that the Industry required 58,519 additional employees, of a total of 342,333 for greater Brisbane, are required for the period 2012-2021.

We are also presently hearing of significant funding and staffing cuts across the Health Care and Social Assistance Industry – an industry that plays a vital role in designing and delivering primary to tertiary interventions – and the wage disparities experienced by its female dominated workforce. Most recently, we spoke with health promotion officers working in a remote community who had been made redundant, leaving that community without sufficient primary intervention and therefore more likely to require more expensive secondary and tertiary interventions. The Public Health Information Unit website reveals that people living in remote communities are more vulnerable to a wide range of health issues and social disadvantage; poor health is a factor in social disadvantage and exclusion and mortality rates. For example, the Public Health Information Unit reveals that those living in remote and very remote regions are much more vulnerable to avoidable mortality than those in other regions, with the risk faced by those in very remote regions more than double those in major cities. As we are presently preparing a community health promotion plan for a remote community and having just played a role in the delivery of WHO’s Healthy Cities Leadership Course, such matters are uppermost in our minds. The significance for cities is that most of that tertiary health care and infrastructure is delivered in urban centre. Hence, the dynamism of Brisbane’s Health Care and Social Assistance Industry has ramification for the whole state and the regions within.

Interestingly, also at the CLICK! Digital Expo, we heard the citation of OECD figures ranking Australia 20th in product innovation and 7th in process innovation. We can’t say for sure whether that process innovation capability is directed to service design and delivery, but we assume so. We wondered how this process innovation is inflected in the Health Care and Social Assistance Industry, provoking some serious questions about the appropriate resourcing and staffing in the Health Care and Social Assistance industry as foundational for social sustainability. Without such resourcing, this industry is challenged to provide the necessary preventative interventions, which can ultimately slow any need for significant tertiary investments in the future. That is, an investment in health promotion officers or screening programs now may reduce the need for million dollar hospital beds in the future – it is not only part of the safety net but integral for the social sustainability and liveability of the city. It also represents a social debt that is cast into the future, delaying and compounding expenditures, which negatively impact on other sustainability considerations such as productivity and innovation. While social, causal and system relationships are always more complex than this, there is a need to seriously look at the Health Care and Social Service Industry, as we cusp one of the most challenging demographic shifts of our times (i.e. aging population). Obviously, skilled labour and digital capability are necessary for enhancing the ability of this industry to meet changing demand and develop process innovation not only for Brisbane but for Queensland.

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