Co-design in practice is guided by a set of six foundation principles which form the ABC of co-design. It is important that everyone involved, and health practitioners in particular, understands the foundation principles and are committed to them.

Foundation Principle #1 – A is for Access

This is about ensuring that care systems are designed and developed in a way to ensure individuals with complex health needs, with their carers and families, gain access to the range of health and support services they require.

  • People with complex health needs and their carers, may struggle to coordinate and access the vast array of health and other service providers available. The process can be frustrating, exhausting and overwhelming, and become a barrier to accessing services.
  • Young people with intellectual disability, for example, experience a higher prevalence of significant medical problems but experience greater difficulty accessing health care compared to the general population. As a result they often have poorer health outcomes.
  • Access to services is even more complicated when a family lives in a regional or remote area. Reduced access to local specialist services can create major obstacles that require considerable time, travel and money to overcome.

Co-design places consumers – individuals with complex needs and their families – at the centre to build care systems that will work best for them. Consumers are actively involved in determining priorities and in deciding how they will be delivered. Innovative examples of this could involve specialist telehealth consultations for families in regional areas.

Direct input from consumers ensures that services are relevant, practicalities are considered, and available resources are directed to where they are needed most.