• Remote country town street
Gabrielle O'Kane,
National Rural Health Alliance
Gabrielle O'Kane,
Chief Executive Officer

Every country town and every remote community has its own health issues requiring different health solutions. The June issue of Partyline shines a light on some of the different approaches being taken in rural health education and training, and examples of getting the best from rural health research and applying it in rural health services and practices.

We know the data is alarming – that despite having the highest health care needs, rural Australia has the lowest number of health professionals, with the rate and range of health professionals decreasing as remoteness increases.

The main theme that is paying dividends in this issue is a basic one – a ‘boots on the ground’ approach of taking time to understand local communities is proving successful. Grassroots consultation and planning are leading to firsts, such as Tresillian’s partnership agreements with local communities to deliver child and family health services, which are in turn leading further research on service delivery. I can still recall the difficulties I had living in Wagga Wagga, NSW, with a young baby that would not sleep and having no access to services, such as those provided by Tresillian. My only option was to go into the paediatric ward at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital, to get the assistance of the ward nurses. The care was excellent, but not specialised as it is today. I still remind my now 22-year-old daughter that I had to take her off to reform school at the age of seven weeks!  

It is also wonderful to see so many rural, regional and remote clinicians teaming up with university, community and industry partners to explore and resolve workforce and service delivery issues in primary care.

For example, the Murrumbidgee Local Health District in NSW partnered with Charles Sturt University to respectfully research the experiences of new mums. As a qualitative researcher, with a particular interest in Narrative Inquiry methodology, I was taken by the findings from the qualitative data in this study. It was the power of women’s stories in this research that resulted in answers to complex treatment barriers, as well as revelations about postnatal depression, which have led to more targeted support for mums. An additional benefit has been the growth of a research culture among health professionals.

Indigenous health issues are addressed through an opinion piece by Professor Tom Calma AO, and we feature collaborative programs looking at smoking, nutrition and skin health in remote communities. We also share many great resources that are working in different rural, regional and remote communities, which may have applications and benefits for your own rural health ecosystem.

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