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Health policy reviews in the JRSM

Health systems throughout the world face many challenges, including the rising prevalence of chronic diseases such as diabetes; a rise in unhealthy behaviours and risk factors for poor health outcomes, such as physical inactivity, calorie-rich diets and obesity; increasing difficulty in maintaining expenditure on health services and funding new, high-cost treatments; maintaining the population’s access to healthcare while at the same time curtailing this growth in healthcare spending; and determining the most appropriate balance between primary care and specialist services.

A new series of health policy reviews in the JRSM will report on these issues and how health systems are aiming to address key health policy challenges. Traditionally, research and debate in these areas has been very nation-specific, with relatively few attempts to carry out cross-national studies. However, if many of the challenges faced by healthcare systems are similar, then it is likely that countries can draw upon each other’s experiences in developing methods of dealing with these challenges.

The first review in this series discusses the role of non-medical community health workers in improving access to care. The use of such workers is seen as one way of improving access to health services in a cost-effective manner. Future articles will discuss the feasibility of defining ‘ambulatory care sensitive conditions’ that can act as markers of high quality delivery of primary care services, and initiatives to limit the harms caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

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