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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Home and community care services: a major opportunity for preventive health care

Louisa R Jorm12*, Scott R Walter13, Sanja Lujic1, Julie E Byles4 and Hal L Kendig5

Author Affiliations

1 School of Medicine, University of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith South DC NSW 1797, Australia

2 The Sax Institute, PO Box 123, Broadway NSW 2007, Australia

3 NSW Department of Health, LMB 961 North Sydney NSW 2059, Australia

4 Research Centre for Gender, Health and Ageing, University of Newcastle, University Drive, Callaghan NSW 2308, Australia

5 Ageing, Work and Health Research Unit, C/- CERA, Concord Hospital C25, Concord NSW 2139, Australia

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BMC Geriatrics 2010, 10:26  doi:10.1186/1471-2318-10-26

Published: 22 May 2010

Abstract

Background

In Australia, the Home and Community Care (HACC) program provides services in the community to frail elderly living at home and their carers. Surprisingly little is known about the health of people who use these services. In this study we sought to describe health-related factors associated with use of HACC services, and to identify potential opportunities for targeting preventive services to those at high risk.

Methods

We obtained questionnaire data from the 45 and Up Study for 103,041 men and women aged 45 years and over, sampled from the general population of New South Wales, Australia in 2006-2007, and linked this with administrative data about HACC service use. We compared the characteristics of HACC clients and non-clients according to a range of variables from the 45 and Up Study questionnaire, and estimated crude and adjusted relative risks for HACC use with generalized linear models.

Results

4,978 (4.8%) participants used HACC services in the year prior to completing the questionnaire. Increasing age, female sex, lower pre-tax household income, not having a partner, not being in paid work, Indigenous background and living in a regional or remote location were strongly associated with HACC use. Overseas-born people and those speaking languages other than English at home were significantly less likely to use HACC services. People who were underweight, obese, sedentary, who reported falling in the past year, who were current smokers, or who ate little fruit or vegetables were significantly more likely to use HACC services. HACC service use increased with decreasing levels of physical functioning, higher levels of psychological distress, and poorer self-ratings of health, eyesight and memory. HACC clients were more likely to report chronic health conditions, in particular diabetes, stroke, Parkinson's disease, anxiety and depression, cancer, heart attack or angina, blood clotting problems, asthma and osteoarthritis.

Conclusions

HACC clients have high rates of modifiable lifestyle risk factors and health conditions that are amenable to primary and secondary prevention, presenting the potential for implementing preventive health care programs in the HACC service setting.