What should be the focus of health debate in an election year? Crikey blog Croakey asked health researchers, lobbyists and professionals what they want to see from the the federal election campaign — particularly the role of the media in examining policy initiatives and driving the debate …

Fiona Armstrong, Climate and Health Alliance:

To ask questions about what the announcements mean for the community. Are they feasible? Realistic? Warranted? Affordable? Enough? In the public interest? Will they improve the health of the community broadly? Affect specific health conditions? Save money? Be guided by evidence? Reduce expenditure? Prevent illness? Prevent enough illness? Benefit health professional over patients? Address pressing health concerns? Are they in line with national and international health goals?

Lea McInerney, writer, researcher and facilitator:

What do the parties have in mind in response to the increasing evidence for the part social determinants play in everyone’s health and wellbeing? Linked to this, how do they plan to address rising inequality in Australia?

What do they plan to do to promote better dialogue and exchange across sectors — to break down the silos among healthcare and other professionals (transport, housing, community services, employment, education, etc) that prevent good collaborative solutions to complex problems?

Amanda Lee, professor at QUT’s School of Public Health and Social Work and School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences:

Investigation of policy platforms regarding preventative health and specific questions like: do you support continuation of the Australian National Preventative Health Agency?

Daryl Sadgrove, Australasian College of Health Service Management CEO:

We must take a long-term view. All jurisdictions in Australia will be overwhelmed by costs by 2035. We need to hold the government to account on long-term, systemic and structural changes that will assist with managing demand.

Ian McAuley, Centre for Policy Development fellow:

Journalists should avoid being caught on trivia and ask some basic questions of politicians. Do you care about the community’s cost of health care, or only about the government’s fiscal cost? If you want to shift health costs off budget on to private insurance, how would you preserve equity, avoid the moral hazard of private insurance and control bureaucratic costs? What role do you see for price signals in health care? Or do you believe health care should be free at the point of delivery? Memo item — private insurance is not a market mechanism, it’s a way of buying out of the discipline of price signals.

Should those with their own or third-party deep pockets (private insurance, cover from sport clubs, etc) be able to jump the queue for scarce health resources and make queues for public hospitals longer? If you are not in favour of a single insurer, explain why? (“We don’t want ‘socialised medicine'” is not an answer.)

Journalists should ask of advocates: what principles should guide the allocation of health care resources, and why? If the health budget is constrained, what health programs should be cut to pay for your program?

Tim Senior, GP working in Aboriginal health:

I’d like to see coverage of health policy not be limited to discussion of hospitals and hospital beds. It would be good to see questioning around the importance of primary care, and what election commitments there were around this. I’d also like to see this move beyond a discussion about Medicare and bulk billing rates, though I won’t hold my breath.

It would also be nice to see a distinction between health policies, which usually means policies about the health system and a discussion of the health effects of all policies. Finding the evidence behind policy commitments would also be helpful, rather than just a “he said, she said” argument.

I’d also like to see election health reporting look at the effect of policies on particular groups — Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health is a prime example where policy in indigenous health will be made completely separately to other health policy. Finally, it would also be good to see politicians questioned about what is not in their policies, as well as what is there.