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Evaluating Australia’s National Medicines Policy using geographical mapping

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Background: There has been a proliferation of quality use of medicines activities in Australia since the 1990s. However, knowledge of the nature and extent of these activities was lacking. A mechanism was required to map the activities to enable their coordination.

Aims: To develop a geographical mapping facility as an evaluative tool to assist the planning and implementation of Australia’s policy on the quality use of medicines.

Methods: A web-based database incorporating geographical mapping software was developed. Quality use of medicines projects implemented across the country was identified from project listings funded by the Quality Use of Medicines Evaluation Program, the National Health and Medical Research Council, Mental Health Strategy, Rural Health Support, Education and Training Program, the Healthy Seniors Initiative, the General Practice Evaluation Program and the Drug Utilisation Evaluation Network. In addition, projects were identified through direct mail to persons working in the field.

Results: The Quality Use of Medicines Mapping Project (QUMMP) was developed, providing a Web-based database that can be continuously updated. This database showed the distribution of quality use of medicines activities by: (i) geographical region, (ii) project type, (iii) target group, (iv) stakeholder involvement, (v) funding body and (vi) evaluation method. At September 2001, the database included 901 projects. Sixty-two per cent of projects had been conducted in Australian capital cities, where approximately 63% of the population reside. Distribution of projects varied between States. In Western Australia and Queensland, 36 and 73 projects had been conducted, respectively, representing approximately two projects per 100 000 people. By comparison, in South Australia and Tasmania approximately seven projects per 100 000 people were recorded, with six per 100 000 people in Victoria and three per 100 000 people in New South Wales. Rural and remote areas of the country had more limited project activity.

Conclusions: The mapping of projects by geographical location enabled easy identification of high and low activity areas. Analysis of the types of projects undertaken in each region enabled identification of target groups that had not been involved or services that had not yet been developed. This served as a powerful tool for policy planning and implementation and will be used to support the continued implementation of Australia’s policy on the quality use of medicines. (Intern Med J 2002; 32: 66–71)
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Keywords: National Medicinal Drug Policy; evaluation; rational drug use

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Pharmaceutical, Molecular and Biomedical Sciences, University of South Australia, South Australia, 2: School of Pharmacy, University of Queensland, Queensland and 3: School of Public Health, Latrobe University, Victoria, Australia

Publication date: 2002-03-01

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