Editorial: Thinking about connectivity and rural health

  • Collage of rural doctors and hand pointing to digital folders
    Photo: collage includes photograph from Julie Dillon as part of 2019 Friends Photo and Poetry Competition
National Rural Health Alliance
Gabrielle O'Kane,
Chief Executive Officer

It’s my pleasure to welcome you to the latest Partyline, and my second as National Rural Health Alliance CEO.

The theme for this issue is connectivity in rural and remote Australia. Most people, when they hear connectivity in this context will think of digital health, or telehealth. Digital health is a key strategic priority for the Alliance and was the focus of a workshop we recently co-hosted with the NBN, which brought together health practitioners, consumers, researchers and policymakers to discuss how we can better use technology to improve health outcomes for rural Australians.

This issue of Partyline highlights a number of innovative ways that organisations are delivering health services and education to people right across Australia. Whether it’s connecting rural children to speech and occupational therapists or delivering life support education remotely to allow practitioners to fulfil their professional development obligations, this issue shines a light on how technology is being used to bridge the gap between the cities and rural Australia.

And when we think of technology and health, it’s not just about the delivery of health services. For example, in this issue we hear from Beyond Blue about how their online forums are providing a space for discussion of depression, anxiety, suicide and related life issues, and from the Destination Medicine team about their podcast telling the story of rural doctors.

More broadly though, it’s been fascinating to see the different interpretations of connectivity that have been reflected in the articles we have received. For example, in this issue we hear from the Mental Health Professionals Network about how bringing practitioners together in networks has improved the delivery of mental health services in Tasmania. We also feature an article from the Men’s Resource Centre, which details how their programs are bringing men together to improve health and wellbeing.

What is apparent from this issue is that connectivity is not just about being connected via technology but about all sorts of networks, whether formal or informal. Social connectedness is a key determinant of mental health, and the importance of social connectedness is reflected in a number of articles in this issue. In rural Australia, people regularly score better than their major city counterparts on indicators of life satisfaction and feelings of wellbeing. As an Alliance fact sheet points out, this may relate to the interconnectedness of people living in rural areas and the higher levels of civic participation, social cohesion, social capital, and volunteering and informal networks between neighbours, friends and the community.

I hope you enjoy this issue of Partyline – a magazine which has always been about connectedness and bringing together people from across Australia with an interest in rural health.

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