The discrepancies in the health and wellbeing of those in urban and rural communities are still a cause for concern, and more work needs to be done to close the gap.
That is the underlying message of a new report from the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA), which also calls for more community participation in rural regions to improve the quality of health services currently available.
Alison Verhoeven, chief executive of the AHHA, said the gulf between urban and rural healthcare can no longer be ignored.
“Rural Australians experience poorer health than their urban counterparts, due to the increased prevalence of preventable health conditions such as obesity and accidental injuries, combined with the sparse distribution of health services,” she explained.
“Rural health services are generally smaller, with less access to resources, whilst being expected to service a far greater area than those located within urban areas.”
As such, actively involving the community in the design and implementation of rural health services is a key strategic initiative, according to the report. As these individuals will have the most awareness and insight into the unique health needs of their communities, seeking their input is a crucial step in improving the health services open to them.
“Without constructive and considered input from those living in rural Australia, health outcomes for those living outside of urban communities will continue to be poorer than those of their city-based counterparts,” said Nerida Hyett, author of the report.
The AHHA added that community-based health services such as Medicare Locals and Local Health Networks will therefore have an increasingly important role to play.
Trends such as hospital in the home (HITH) may also rise to prominence to meet the healthcare needs of rural communities. Events such as the 14th annual Hospital in the Home conference can also raise awareness of such initiatives – for example, it includes a module on running HITH in the remote tropics of Australia.