The CRCNA’s latest health research investment in partnership with James Cook University has harnessed data to create an open-access, interactive map that empowers northern Queensland communities to have a say in health service planning.

The map, titled the Northern Queensland Health Atlas, will pilot the principles of place-based planning by increasing data accessibility for regional, rural and remote communities.

The atlas gives users the ability to filter and overlay data on the burden of disease or ill health, socio-demographic information, the availability of general practice and other specialist services, as well as indicators of health system performance in specific geographic areas.

JCU Associate Professor Stephanie Topp said the atlas addressed one of the main barriers to place-based health planning: data accessibility.

“The information that would shape decisions about how a health service could or should run is located in so many different places, not just within Queensland but Australia,” A/Prof Topp said.

“The idea of place-based planning is to bring the data and the decision-making processes around health service formation and coordination closer to the communities themselves.”

The health atlas increases the accessibility and agility with which health needs can be compared to service access and availability.

“Making that data more accessible to everyone in the health system, including those who need to use it, can only serve to better inform and promote the sorts of decisions that will produce better health outcomes.

“Joined-up information like this is the basis of good planning and efficient use of resources. The atlas, as a proof of concept, is an important flag for the need for something like this at a much larger scale,” A/Prof Topp said.

It is a key component of the CRCNA’s three-year Integrating Health Care Planning for Health and Prosperity in North Queensland project.

CRCNA CEO Anne Stünzner said place-based planning was crucial to ensure the best use of resources for the best possible return at all levels of health planning.

“The CRCNA is excited the health atlas is a first step toward a much broader application of this principle,” Ms Stünzner said.

“This project is a great example of industry-led research driving meaningful outcomes for communities, giving people on the ground something tangible to coalesce around and advocate for.”

Moving into the second phase of the three-year project, community members in the northwest Queensland town of Hughenden will use the atlas data and local knowledge to identify opportunities to improve efficiencies in health service delivery.

Atlas statistics were sourced from databases including the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Federal Department of Health, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Queensland Health.

Community members will be involved in co-design discussions to identify local issues and contribute to developing strategies that can be implemented through the project.

Local project officers will help facilitate a series of workshopped discussions with local stakeholders, including community members and health providers, on the health needs indicated in the atlas, guided by a collaborative reference group who will identify feasible actions to address gaps at the local level. Whilst the project concludes in April 2024, changes aim to be sustainable beyond the project.

The project is a partnership with Tropical  Australian Academic Health Centre (TAAHC), including the five northern hospitals and health services, the NQ Primary Health Network and Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council. Partners from the Northern Territory and Kimberley are also involved.

A/Prof Topp said a goal of the project was to create a process that allowed local stakeholders to participate in and regain control of some of the healthcare decision making in their communities, generating the momentum to address structural issues through advocacy.

“There’s a dual benefit of taking control of those pieces that are able to be managed at a local level and empowering people to have a louder and more assertive voice when it comes to advocating for change at the central level,” she said.

It is anticipated the project will soon extend to another three communities across northern and central Queensland.

Learn about the new Northern Queensland Health Atlas in this webinar recording.

The sugarcane industry could become the backbone of an Australian bioeconomy superhighway under a plan unveiled at the Developing Northern Australia Conference in Mackay.

The Sugar Plus vision and roadmap was developed in partnership by sugar industry organisations with support from the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA) and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

CRCNA Chief Executive Officer Anne Stünzner said Sugar Plus outlines an important role for the industry in Fuelling the Future of Food, Energy and Fabrication.

“The sugarcane industry has identified an exciting and transformational future of sustainably producing sugar and bioproducts at the heart of regional communities,” Ms Stünzner said.

“The roadmap outlines opportunities for a substantially larger industry. A growing bioeconomy industry will enable Australia to become increasingly self-sufficient, improving economic resilience and national security.”

Ms Stünzner said analysis undertaken in developing the roadmap indicated enormous opportunity.

“Australian demand for heavy fuels and plastics is substantial. Even modest adoption of biofuels and bioplastic equates to a substantial amount of sugar equivalent alternative products. Australia’s current domestic market alone would create massive demand for alternative protein feedstock, aviation fuel and bioplastics,” Ms  Stünzner said.

“It’s now over to the industry to bring this roadmap to life and take the necessary steps to ensure this is not just another report but a clear plan for action,” she said.

Sugar Research Australia Chief Executive Officer Roslyn Baker congratulated industry organisations for the strong partnership and collaboration in developing the roadmap and their commitment to innovation and growth.

“The roadmap includes initiatives to support better business-as-usual in the near term, add value and create new revenue streams in the medium term, and become a bioeconomy powerhouse in the longer term,” Ms Baker said.

  • Food is where it all starts. Raw sugar will continue to play an important role in feeding the world. Sugar is also an important feedstock for the new generation of animal free foods.
  • Energy that builds on current cogenerated power and ethanol, provides the next generation of sustainable mobility and power. The sugarcane plant is one of the best natural sources for transforming into renewable energy and biofuels for heavy transport and aviation.
  • Fabrication for the future is about making products that enable a more sustainable way of life, including replacements for the many plastic items produced and used every day.

“The roadmap outlines the actions needed across a range of levels, from individual farms to local communities through regional coordination or support of a mill and national leadership,” Ms Baker said.

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities Mark Furner said Sugar Plus highlighted the sugar industry’s important role in supporting long-term economic development in Queensland.

“Queensland produces almost 95 per cent of Australia’s sugar cane which is worth almost $4 billion dollars a year to the nation’s economy and supports 23,000 direct and indirect jobs from Mossman in far north Queensland, through to northern New South Wales,” Mr Furner said.

“That is why the Queensland Government supported the development of this industry-led initiative, backing the industry to come together to make the Sugar Plus vision a reality.

“We look forward to the ongoing implementation of key priorities that align with those of the Queensland Government and will work with industry to responsibly grow the bioeconomy in regional Queensland.”

The roadmap was developed through a nine-month engagement process across the Australian sugar industry supply chain. It was jointly funded and supported by the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia, Sugar Research Australia (as project sponsor), CANEGROWERS, the Australian Sugar Milling Council, AgForce, Australian Cane Farmers Association and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Media contacts:

Carla Keith, CRCNA, 0499 330 051

Cathy Weis, Sugar Research Australia, 0419 715 815