Objective: To examine the strength and extent of collaborations between primary health care organisations and local government in population health planning.
Methods: Methods included: a) online surveys with Medicare Locals (n=210) and Primary Health Networks (n=66), comparing the two using two‐level mixed models; b) interviews with Medicare Local (n=50) and Primary Health Network (n=55) executives; c) interviews with members of local government associations and Primary Health Network board members with local government experience (n=7); and d) review of 54 Medicare Local and 31 Primary Health Network publicly available annual reports.
Results: Despite partnership being a policy objective for Medicare Locals/ Primary Health Networks, they reported limited time and financial support for collaboration with local government. Organisational capacity and resources, supportive governance and public health legislation mandating a role for local governments were critical to collaborative planning.
Conclusions: Local government has the potential to tackle social factors affecting health; therefore, their inclusion in population health planning is valuable. Legislative mandates would help to achieve this, and PHNs require a stronger Federal Government mandate backed by sufficient resources and a governance structure that supports collaboration.
Implications for public health: Improving primary health care and local government collaboration has great potential to improve the quality of health planning and action on social determinants, thus advancing population health and health equity.