Flagship preventive health guidelines get first update in eight years

Morgan Liotta

28/06/2024 4:00:00 AM

The RACGP says the 10th edition of its Red Book has undergone rigorous updates to ensure it is accessible and relevant to Australia’s changing healthcare landscape.

General practice consulation
The updated Red Book includes the latest recommendations on evidence-based screening, prevention of chronic disease and early detection of disease.

The RACGP has launched the 10th edition of its flagship preventive healthcare guidelines, the Red Book, this morning at an event with Federal Assistant Health and Aged Care Minister Ged Kearney.
The new edition of the Guidelines for preventive activities in general practice includes the latest recommendations on evidence-based screening, prevention of chronic disease, early detection of disease, and empowering patients through health education and promotion.
Red Book Chair and Head of Monash University’s Department of General Practice, Professor Danielle Mazza, told newsGP the updated edition was developed to ensure it arms GPs with comprehensive guidance on what they do on a day-to-day basis.
‘The updated edition will help GPs because we’ve made the information much more accessible online in an updated format, so the recommendations are clearly divided into screening recommendations, case finding and preventive activities,’ she said.
‘We’ve also got links to all the tools and resources that are recommended for use.’
The introduction of the internationally recognised GRADE framework has been labelled a key update, as it ensures recommendations are actionable and allow GPs to quickly access and review best practice advice on a wider range of conditions.
‘This is a new approach,’ Professor Mazza said. ‘Previously the recommendations were referenced, but the GRADE framework talks about the strength of the evidence and gives GPs better confidence in relation to the recommendations being made.
‘It reassures GPs about the level of evidence that sits behind the recommendations.’
The Red Book 10th edition also features:

  • new topics, including developmental delay and autism; child and elder abuse; anxiety; gambling; sleep; eating disorders; several new women’s health topics in relation to preventive care during and after pregnancy; and post-menopause
  • a standardised topic format and word limit to ensure recommendations are concise and uniform.
Professor Mazza says the new topics were chosen ‘for a mixture of reasons’, but largely to fill existing gaps in the Australian general practice context.
‘The approach that we took was to synthesise evidence and recommendations from high-quality national and international guidelines,’ she said.
‘There are other peak organisations creating guidelines on preventive care, and they’re talking about these topics. We thought we should bring that evidence into the into the Red Book.’

Red-Book-launch-article.jpgRed Book Chair Professor Danielle Mazza with Federal Assistant Health and Aged Care Minister Ged Kearney. (Image: Alex Kasap)
Building on wider calls from the RACGP to enable GPs to stay at the forefront of medical best practice by using the latest published evidence, Professor Mazza is calling for funding to make the Red Book a living guideline.
‘Each edition [of the Red Book] is currently a new whole new enterprise, and where the evidence changes rapidly, there’s no capacity to introduce this in the current system – that’s what the benefit of living guidelines is,’ she said.
‘Guidelines are no easy feat, and if you think about GPs around the country delivering preventive care, the Government has a real interest that it’s done well, so should be investing.
‘All Australians would benefit from government investment to prevent recurrence of chronic disease and cancers at an earlier stage.’
RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins echoes those calls, saying that health research and evidence ‘change rapidly’, and support for the college to produce living guidelines will improve the health of the nation and GPs’ work in prevention and management.
‘GPs see hundreds or thousands of patients a year, so a delay between quality research being published and being reviewed and incorporated into guidelines means missed opportunities,’ she said.
‘The leading causes of death and disability in Australia are preventable or can be delayed with early intervention.
‘Funding for RACGP guidelines and for preventive interventions in general practice will mean Australians get the latest evidence-based care – this will make Australia healthier and reduce costs to the health system.’
Ahead of the official launch, Professor Mazza said she is proud to have chaired what was a ‘momentous’ piece of work.
‘We’re very fortunate that the college has invested in the development of this kind of guideline,’ she said.
‘But really, it requires much larger investment from government to support it to maintain currency and quality.’
The Guidelines for preventive activities in general practice, 10th edition, is available on the RACGP website. The RACGP has also launched a new Red Book CPD course for members.
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