Introduction by Croakey: More research should be undertaken in rural hospitals in order to drive improvements in health for people living in rural and remote areas, according to researchers.
Dr Laura Alston and Professor Vincent Versace, from Deakin Rural Health, argue that under-investment in research in rural areas has “resulted in a lack of rural context specific knowledge and this contributes to ongoing health inequity”.
One solution they propose in this commentary is to increase place-based research in rural areas, particularly in local hospitals as research activities in urban hospitals has been shown to improve health outcomes.
Alston and Versace call on governments, policymakers, funding bodies, hospital leaders and academics to “embrace the opportunity in rural hospitals to drive context-specific research activity that can improve health and inform new knowledge on the mechanisms in which research activity generates benefit”.
The importance of recognising the unique context and health issues in each rural community was also a theme when Croakey editor Alison Barrett was recently at the helm of our rotated Twitter account, @WePublicHealth, taking followers on a rural road trip to Narungga/Yorke Peninsula, South Australia.
In the summary below, she discusses some of the rural determinants of health including climate emergencies, digital access and community media, highlighting the importance of fostering the strengths and protective factors of rural communities.
Alison Barrett writes:
Setting the scene
I grew up on a farm about three hours from Kaurna country/Adelaide. The closest town was a 15 minute drive and had a primary school, one-two grocery shops, one bank (which has since closed down), post office and three churches. The nearest high school was a 40 minute drive.
In terms of healthcare, there was a Child and Family Health Service and GP clinic where doctors and nurses visit periodically. The closest full-time GP clinic and hospital was a 40 minute drive.
It is important to note that all rural communities are different. For some, a 40-minute drive to a GP or hospital may be considered close. For some, the distance (close or not) may not be the issue in accessing healthcare, it may be long wait lists.
Read a Conversation article about The Wonder of Little Things here.
Read The Conversation article here.
It’s important to foster and support the strengths of rural communities in not only climate change adaptation and mitigation but other health promotion initiatives and policies.
Rural communities have many protective factors that contribute to positive health and wellbeing, including social cohesion, community involvement and volunteering, problem-solving and the natural environment.
As per the National Rural Health Alliance, “rural people should be able to count on accessible, comprehensive, high-quality and affordable healthcare, reasonably close to home”.
This snapshot of rural health in Australia in 2021 by the NRHA highlights risk factors, health outcomes and social determinants of health relevant.
View the full snapshot here.
Rural media matters
Read this article about media diversity and community radio here.
See the full World Economic Forum Global Risks report here.
A couple of quotes from this 2017 study highlight some of the digital access issues in rural Australia:
There is a need to examine the deeply rooted digital divide and how it is intertwined with issues of social exclusion in rural communities.
Rural areas continue to be at a persistent digital disadvantage when compared to their urban counterparts.”
The study found that digital connection was related to remoteness, as well as social determinants of health including education and employment.
Read this article here.
See previous articles by @WePublicHealth guest tweeters.