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Year : 2010  |  Volume : 23  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 457

The Thai-Australian Health Alliance: Developing Health Management Capacity and Sustainability for Primary Health Care Services

1 University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales, Australia
2 Naresuan University Thailand, Muang, Phitsanulok, Thailand
3 School of Health Sciences, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

Correspondence Address:
D S Briggs
& Lawrence Avenue, Tamworth, NSW 2340
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 21290364

Context: There have been recent calls for a renewed worldwide focus on primary health care. The Thai-Australian Health Alliance addresses this call by developing health care management capability in primary health care professionals in rural Thailand. Objectives: This paper describes the history and current activities of the Thai-Australian Health Alliance and its approaches to developing health care management capacity for primary care services through international collaborations in research, education and training over a sustained time period. Methods: The Alliance's approach is described herein as a distributed network of practices with access to shared knowledge through collaboration. Its research and education approaches involve action research, multi-methods projects, and evaluative studies in the context of workshops and field studies. WHO principles underpin this approach, with countries sharing practical experiences and outcomes, encouraging leadership and management resource networks, creating clearing houses/knowledge centres, and harmonising and aligning partners with their country's health systems. Findings: Various evaluations of the Alliance's activities have demonstrated that a capacity building approach that aligns researchers, educators and health practitioners in comparative and reflective activities can be effective in transferring knowledge and skills among a collaboration's partners. Project participants, including primary health care practitioners, health policy makers and academics embraced the need to acquire management skills to sustain primary care units. Participants believe that the approaches described herein were crucial to developing the management skills needed of health care professionals for rural and remote primary health care. The implementation of this initiative was challenged by pre-existing low opinions of the importance of the management role in health care, but with time the Alliance's activities highlighted for all the importance of health care management. Acceptance of its activities and goals are evidenced by the establishment of a Centre of Leadership Expertise in Health Management and the endorsement of the Phitsanulok Declaration by more than 470 primary health care practitioners, academics and policy makers. Discussion and conclusion: Problems with the primary health care delivery system in rural Thailand continue, but the Alliance has successfully implemented a cross cultural strategic collaboration through a continuity of activities to augment practice management capacities in primary care practices.

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