Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Policy signals from 5th Rural and Remote Health Scientific Symposium

The 5th Rural and Remote Health Scientific Symposium in Old Parliament House of Canberra on 5-7 September 2016 was an excellent event which brought together leading voices in rural health policy and research. The opening address by Matilda House of the Ngambri-Ngunnawal clan introduced the Hon Dr David Gillespie, the new Assistant Minister Rural Health, who provided a strong overview of the Australian government’s shaping agenda in rural health.

Dr Belinda O'Sullivan presented a Lightening Talk  about models to deliver specialist services in rural and remote Australia. (5:36 mins)
The government’s agenda is clearly focused on getting the right mix of health workers with relevant skills in rural and remote Australia, focusing on delivering accessible, cost-effective and sustainable health care to rural and remote people.

A new Rural Health Commissioner signals the government’s commitment to improve rural health. Research and evidence are emphasised as critical to help shape the government’s agenda, specifically informing Medicare reform, the use of overseas-trained doctors, workforce programs, commissioning via the Primary Health Networks and healthcare homes. The government is committed to expanding the use of technology for more convenient and efficient care, not replacing services on the ground.

Other presentations spanned policy, practice and research. Prof Duckett overviewed research from the 2016 Grattan Report Perils of Place which diverged into a range of discussion about place-based amenity and indicators to signal medical workforce need, service gaps and the need for better planning.

The five minute lightning talks are a very digestible format to get the flavour of work being done in rural health nationally. (View Dr O'Sullivans's talk 5:36 mins.) Excellent panels and plenaries went into more depth as to indigenous health research, the use of small hospitals, re-instituting rural maternity services and building rural health research capacity.

Dr Matthew McGrail and Dr Belinda O’Sullivan enjoyed the chance to present emerging research from their work using MABEL data. This symposium was short, sweet and perfectly pitched to enthuse passion in rural health policy, practice and research. See the presentations on the National Rural Health Alliance website.

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