The National Rural Health Conference was held in Adelaide in April. The delegates drawn from various departments and health professions have yet again restated their commitment to a bright healthy future for rural and remote populations. After the conference, delegates presented 17 main recommendations to improve rural health. These recommendations were split broadly into the categories of infrastructure, clinical, workforce issues, and health in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.
Infrastructure was discussed in detail and its impact on the quality of health care provided to rural populations evaluated intensively to come up with the following recommendations.
1. Broadband: The NRHC calls for political commitment in establishing an effective broadband network in all homes and institutions in the rural areas by ensuring that.
- The broadband infrastructure set in place is robust and adaptable enough.
- The pricing models are as inclusive as possible.
- The broadband speeds are as high as possible to facilitate important heath care services.
2. Royalties for regions: The NRHC calls on all political parties to commit to Royalties for Regions fund that will see the commonwealth, states and territories contribute to it.
- To strengthen rural and remote communities health infrastructure and services.
- Regions must also retain their autonomy in regards to how these funds are distributed.
3. Place-based programs and decisions: The NRHC calls for political leadership to legislate more place-based models of community empowerment and program administration in areas such as health and education among others.
- These programs should be responsive and accountable to local communities.
- Good examples are Medicare Locals and Regional Development Australia committees.
4. Food security: Given the necessity of good nutrition to overall health delegates recommended the establishment of a fund aimed at improving community work on food security.
- A cross sector approach should be adapted.
- Major supermarkets should be involved in funding programs that improve the supply chain and local production and distribution of food.
5. Data: To access the impact of health programs in rural areas in an ongoing way accurate and accessible data are needed.
- Delegates recommend a framework of self-reporting across jurisdictions.
- All data collection activities should be carried out in a culturally acceptable way.
- Data that forms the assessment of Medicare for locals should be accessed and regional planning expanded to:
- Common wellness indices.
- Evacuations and assisted patients travel in necessary cases.
6. A National arts and Health Framework: The delegates recommend that authorities recognize the role of arts in health and lifestyle issues.
7. Improving Eye Health for Aboriginal communities: 94% of all vision loss cases in rural areas are treatable and the delegates recommends that the government creates a budget for:
- The integration of eye health into routine screening programs.
- The provision of eye services by an adequate number of health professionals.
8. Aged Care: The conference calls for living longer and better legislation with measures that include:
- Fuel vouchers to compensate for unreliable public transport.
- Important safe at home modifications to avoid small accidents.
9. Oral health: Oral health is essential and the conference recommends that:
- The support of the National Partnership Agreement on public dental health services.
- The support of Grow Up Smiling (GUS) program.
10. Maternity care: This service should be community oriented to meet core needs of both women and families by:
- Employing bachelor’s midwifery professionals in these localities.
- Effective mentoring services.
- Multi-disciplinary Professional development.
11. Early Childhood: The vulnerability of children in rural areas is further compounded by a myriad of social economic realities in these places.
- Appropriate protection and nurturing community based models should be created.
12. Metro-Rural Metro Services Link: Services delivery in rural areas should be governed by service agreements that guarantee continuity.
- Formal arrangements should be made that withstand the test of time and change of personnel.
13. Allied Health, Sector Integration And National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS): delegates recommend the expansion and integration of this program to accommodate disabled and aged populations.
- By expanding the availability of integrated allied health services.
- The provision of a supervision framework for health professionals.
14. Telehealth: Rural health services can now be managed more efficiently by the use of emerging technologies.
- The conference calls for additional funds and access.
- Telehealth developments should focus on practical, regular interactions between health professionals.
- The government should continue the work of Telehealth Advisory Committee.
15. Maximizing student advocacy and leadership: Health organizations are requested to interact with students in addressing issues such as.
- Support for rural clinical placements.
- Effective guidance and mentoring.
16. Generalism: A campaign should be launched to encourage the adoption of general practice as a specialty in its own right by more health professionals.
- Well-supported and easily-navigated training pathways to rural generalist careers need to be developed.
Improving the Health of Australia’s First People
17. Chronic Conditions In Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Populations: Significant advances can be made with the adoption of greater numbers of culturally respectful health promotion campaigns addressing common chronic illnesses.
- The importance of local community engaged leadership is powerfully demonstrated.
For the full document relating to the 17 recommendations, click here.