RACGP Specific Interests launches public health group

Morgan Liotta

19/04/2023 3:22:33 PM

The new group aims to strengthen the skills and knowledge of GPs and GPs in training with an interest in public and population health.

Blocks of health concepts with stethoscope
The new RACGP Specific Interests Public Health group, a collaboration with the AFPHM, is seeking members nationwide.

The past three years have brought the value of public health – and primary care’s role within it – into sharp focus.
So, when initial discussions began in 2021 between the RACGP and the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine (AFPHM) around developing a new public health specific interests network, Canberra-based GP Dr Stephanie Davis jumped at the opportunity.
‘This was obviously when we were still all very much focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, an event which has really highlighted the need for primary care to be part of the broader public health response,’ she told newsGP.
‘These original discussions were focused on exploring potential pathways for GPs and registrars to further upskill in public health, and for public health physicians and registrars to further upskill in primary care.’
Fast-forward two years, and Dr Davis has been named inaugural Chair of RACGP Specific Interests Public Health, following its recent endorsement by the RACGP Board.
The new group aims to create a network for GPs with an interest in public health, offering peer support and education, and identify and develop their career pathways.
Dr Davis, who splits her time between working as a GP in a refugee health centre and as a medical advisor with the Department of Health and Aged Care, is a dual-trained GP and public health physician who has worked in various areas of rural and remote Australia both as a clinician and in public health roles. 
As the new Chair, she is looking forward to working with colleagues on a topic ‘we are all interested in’ and identifying and developing concrete training and career pathways that cross both primary care and public health.
‘[I want us to] think about how as GPs we can engage effectively in public health actions and discussions,’ she said. 
‘As community-based clinicians, the positive impacts of public and population health approaches to primary care are very clear, as is having a strong understanding of primary care embedded in public health programs and responses.’
As evidenced by Domain 3: Population health and the context of general practice within the 2022 RACGP curriculum and syllabus for Australian general practice, public/population health is an important part of general practice.
The RACGP resource identifies that most GPs routinely incorporate some level of population-based approaches within their practice, ranging from promoting vaccine uptake to advocating around public health issues at a community level, for example.
Australian GPs have also been praised for their ‘invaluable’ response to the pandemic by helping to improve population health outcomes and driving public health initiatives such as the national vaccine rollout.
‘We want to use this group to further bring together GPs with a specific interest in public health, to discuss relevant issues including practical methods for public health engagement and explore mechanisms to build the public health skills, knowledge, qualifications and career pathways for [these] GPs,’ Dr Davis said.
‘We are very interested in exploring joint training pathways with public health medicine, given that many of the members of the group hold dual Fellowships with both the RACGP and AFPHM.
‘[We] feel that this combination makes them more effective in both their GP role and their public health role.’  
Stephanie-Davis-article.jpgAs inaugural Chair of RACGP Specific Interests Public Health, Dr Stephanie Davis wants to strengthen GPs’ role in effectively engaging in public health actions and discussions.

RACGP Specific Interests Public Health also aims to provide up-to-date communication on issues relevant to GPs with a special interest in public health, including identifying practical methods for public health engagement.
Proposed activities over the first 12 months include:

  • bi-monthly online meetings with an initial focus on defining a workplan, conducting a rapid needs assessment, identifying key facilitating factors and barriers to joint training pathways and identifying other methods and opportunities for strengthening GP skills in this area
  • requesting appropriate representation from the AFPHM to inform collaborative discussions on dual training.
Over the longer term, the group aims to broaden its scope to consider how GPs with a special interest in public health can best engage with public health issues and advocate effectively for their patients and the broader population.
With current members of the newly formed group largely from the NT and the ACT, Dr Davis is looking for more national representativeness.
‘We’re very keen for more people to join,’ she said. ‘Members can expect engaging conversation with fun colleagues.
‘We are still determining our exact program of work, but this will likely include a bit of a “map and gap” around current opportunities for public health and general practice training, as well as engaging with education structures within both the RACGP and AFPHM.’
Members interested in joining RACGP Specific Interests groups can do so via an online form.
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