People living with a long-term condition often have more than one condition to contend with. This is known as ‘multimorbidity’, commonly defined as the co-occurrence of two or more chronic conditions within one person. In this situation it is important that the person, not the disease, is the focus. Policies referring to multimorbidity are considered a crucial element in safe health systems.
The CaHRU team of Dr Nadeeka Chandraratne and Dr Ravindra Pathirathna, international visiting fellows attached to CaHRU from the Postgraduate Institute of Medicine at the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, together with Prof Niro Siriwardena and Dr Christopher Harrison from the University of Sydney conducted a content analysis of policy documents and guidelines on multimorbidity from the UK, Australia and Sri Lanka. Despite considerable differences in healthcare structure and financing, all three countries face the challenge of multimorbidity. An understanding of how each country is addressing this challenge was considered important for identifying policy initiatives, gaps and opportunities for further improvement.
The article describing the study and its findings, ‘A comparison of policies and guidelines related to multimorbidity in the UK, Australia and Sri Lanka‘, was published this month in the first issue of the Australian Journal of General Practice 2018 with an accompanying editorial on Multimorbidity written by Niro Siriwardena and Christopher Harrison.
The team found overall a lack of health policy and guidance for multimorbidity: the guideline ‘Multimorbidity: Clinical assessment and management’ from The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), UK was the only specific guideline on multimorbidity. Australia and Sri Lanka lack specific national documents addressing multimorbidity. The promising features observed in Australia were policies that are directly concerned with the health of socially disadvantaged groups, which are at higher risk of multimorbidity. Policies in Sri Lanka were more concerned with preventing chronic conditions, and on community mobilisation and empowerment.
The paper highlights that Sri Lanka needs to focus on policies that emphasise integration and patient-centred healthcare delivery for people with multimorbidity, whereas in the UK and Australia, policies on community-based approaches to address determinants of multimorbidity are needed.
By Dr. Nadeeka Chandraratne