Rural Australian Health Context
Rural Australians and communities experience poorer health than their urban counterparts. Accessible, high-quality primary health care is fundamental to delivering improved health outcomes. The maldistribution of the health workforce contributes significantly to this situation due to reduced access to health services. Rural Australians have a higher prevalence of health risk factors, rate more poorly against the social determinants of health, and have reduced access to health services. Consequently, they experience a greater disease burden, higher morbidity and mortality rates, and a lower life expectancy. Moreover, Aboriginal and Torrs Strait Islander people have lower life expectancy and a higher burden of disease than non-Indigenous Australians.
The lack of a consistent and comprehensive health workforce in rural Australia, coupled with the vast distances in our large country, means that many health services are not present within a reasonable distance of home. Rural Australians need help accessing healthcare services due to travel requirements, waiting times, costs (due to gap payments, travel and accommodation and work forgone), and attitudinal barriers (concerns about privacy in small communities and a reduced tendency to seek help). Potentially preventable hospitalisations are 2-3 times higher for people living in remote and very remote areas of Australia. These could have been preventable if primary health care and early disease management were delivered in the community setting.
To improve efficient and equitable health outcomes, access to quality comprehensive primary health care is vital for all rural Australians. Real change needs a long-term investment and a commitment to innovation and change. The Alliance believes a well-supported health workforce supported by the VET sector will help provide rural Australians with equitable access to high-quality nursing care and other care along the patient journey they deserve, as an addition to the tertiary education sector.
Rural women, in particular, are a group of people who care for parents, children and parents-in-law, wishing to have flexible work opportunities and wish to know where other work opportunities are.