Is there a case for expanding the state's allied health courses? According to the University of Tasmania's School of Health Sciences, the answer is yes.
At the moment UTAS offers undergraduate courses in pharmacy, psychology, social work, laboratory medicine, nutrition and exercise science.
These programs can then be used as a foundational degree to enter graduate entry allied health master degrees.
A small number of Tasmanian students are also eligible to study medical imaging or optometry through credit articulation agreements with partnering universities.
However, both these options require Tasmanian students to leave the state - an option that can be disruptive, socially isolating and expensive.
As a result, the school is leading a project exploring whether there's a case to expand what's on offer for emerging allied health professionals in Tasmania.
This month, it will host a series of forums aimed at engaging health practitioners and the community on what's needed to implement more courses, and how it could fit into Tasmania's wider health system.
The head of School and Health Sciences Nuala Byrne said it was about questioning the current situation and then asking - 'what if'.
"There is a need in Tasmania for an expansion for allied health services. But there is also a need to consider it not just as a - what does a university do in producing new graduates. It's how does the university play it's part, alongside the health system," she said.
"We need to identify that pipeline and support the activities of the current workforce to ensure their professional development is there."
So, what is allied health?
Allied health describes the broad range of health professionals who are not doctors, dentists or nurses.
Their aim is to prevent, diagnose and treat a range of conditions and illnesses and they often work within a multidisciplinary health team to provide the best patient outcomes.
According to the project, improving Tasmania's health outcomes requires greater access to comprehensive allied health care. Enhancing existing delivery systems also requires greater recognition of and support for quality state-based education and training for the allied health professions.
With some of the worst health outcomes in the country, Ms Byrne said Tasmanian health students were on the front line of growing chronic conditions, with limited avenues for preventative measures.
"Something like clinical exercise physiology, there are no positions in the THS. Yet all other states support it, as part of the public health care system," she said.
"So part of this project does need to go beyond the initial phase of setting up and considering the courses. It's really the start of a much broader consideration of what does excellence or an appropriately, well supported healthcare model look like in Tasmania.
"Allied health is a really important part of that healthcare model, and probably one that doesn't get as much air play in Tasmania as it needs to.
"Certainly not as much as it gets in other states. We need to address that."
What's on offer?
Leading the project is associate professor Lisa Dalton, the university's head of learning and teaching in nursing.
From feedback already received from the project, she said one thing had become abundantly clear - Tasmania needs local solutions for local problems.
"Our stakeholders are telling us that while there is a proliferation of allied health forces in Australia, those course aren't necessarily meeting the needs of Tasmanians," she said.
"It won't work to have graduates in Tasmania that are prepared for working in hospitals in Hobart.
"We need graduates that can work across urban, regional and rural settings.
"Alongside that, we will need the individual disciplines to be specialists in their own right, so they can deliver targeted services.
"They will need to have capabilities across disability developmental delays, but also schools and the justice sector.
"Those multi-sectoral capabilities are a really important message coming through as well."
How to become involved?
As part of the co-design process, forums are planned for Launceston, Burnie and Hobart.
Associate Professor Byrne said the university was seeking active input from the community and health professionals.
"The strategic direction of the university is place-based and globally connected. That's reflected in this approach," she said.
"Place-based means we need to consider the viewpoints of the regions. We need practitioners on the ground in those regions to come and talk to us.
"Then the other side is the globally connected. So while we are focusing on local solutions for local problems, the graduate will need to be capable of working in other parts of Australia, or the world."
- North West, October 21 from 6.30pm at the Rural Clinical School Burnie.
- Launceston, October 22 from 6.30pm at the Launceston Clinical School.
- Hobart, October 23 from 6.30pm at the Medical Science Building.
For more information or to register, visit the UTAS website.