I am delighted to be writing my first editorial for Partyline as the National Rural Health Alliance’s new Chief Executive Officer. It is an honour to lead such a valuable and well-respected organisation.
To give you a flavour of my background, I have been immersed in rural communities for over 30 years, married to a farmer (jack of all trades, actually), while working as an academic and researcher, after many years as a dietitian in both the private and public sector. More recently, I worked as the Service Development and Performance Manager for alcohol and other drugs (AOD) in the SENSW Primary Health Network (PHN). My extensive work experience in a range of settings has contributed to my deep understanding of the need for collaborative partnerships across the health system and beyond, to support the rural health workforce, provide integrated care and achieve positive health outcomes for rural communities.
It has been an inspiring and motivating time for the Alliance over the past six months. In March, the 15th National Rural Health Conference attracted over 1,100 people to Hobart to discuss rural health issues. The Alliance is undergoing a growth phase, with four new members of the Alliance admitted in the past few months and several more organisations seeking membership. We launched the new Strategic Plan in September to guide our organisation for the next three years.
The Vision of the National Rural Health Alliance is healthy and sustainable rural, regional and remote communities.
Over the next three years the Alliance will focus on ensuring that the Government and parliamentarians understand our role in advocating for improved health for the seven million people who live and work in rural and remote Australia.
There are many interesting articles in this issue of Partyline, many of which focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. One that attracted my attention was the program Camping on Country – our health our way, which has Ernie Dingo as its ambassador. This program allows Aboriginal and Torres Strait men to engage with their culture through hunting and cooking traditional foods, providing them with an opportunity to heal and improve their health and wellbeing, while immersed in a culturally safe environment. The program has already had several camps, so it will be interesting to follow the outcomes of this important initiative.
Some other articles are also strongly aligned to our current direction at the Alliance, such as ‘digital health’, ‘integrated health precincts’ or ‘networks’ in rural, regional and remote communities and ‘climate and health’. So, take a look the article by Richard McMahon, one of the Friends of the Alliance, about using technology to reach the regions, another by Angela Lehmann at the Regional Australia Institute about the ‘hotspots’ for health precincts in regional Australia and last, but not least, a story from Jo Walker, our Director of Policy at the Alliance, which outlines the interesting presentations about sustainable development and the ecological and cultural determinants of health at the 23rd International Union of Health Promotion and Education conference, held in Rotorua earlier this year.
Finally, the 7th Rural and Remote Health Scientific Symposium is being held in Alice Springs on 25-26 May 2020. It will bring together the rural and remote health research sector with policy makers and others in the government and the non-government sectors to discuss the future of rural and remote health research in Australia and how we can use it to translate evidence into action.
The theme of the 7th Symposium is ‘Shaping the future’. The Symposium will provide the opportunity for delegates to learn, mentor, contribute and network and academics, researchers, policymakers, health professionals, and those from the government not-for-profit sectors are encouraged to attend.
We are accepting abstracts until 30 September 2019 and you can find the guidelines on the Symposium website at www.ruralhealth.org.au/7rrhss. Limited sponsorship opportunities are available for this important research event. If you’d like discuss please contact our Manager, Programs and Events, Leanne Coleman on [email protected]
I am very much looking forward to the challenges over the next few years and would encourage anyone with a view about how to improve the health of rural and remote communities to get in touch with us here in the office in Canberra. You can phone us on 02 6285 4660, or email [email protected] – we’d love to hear from you!