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Investment in community-based rural health care innovation to address health inequities in Australia

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Hooker, L et al


The article argues that around 30% of the population lives in rural and remote Australia. People living in these areas have higher rates of chronic disease and a lower life ex- pectancy. Yet only 2.4 per cent of National Health and Medical Research Council (NMHRC) funded projects (the major funder of health research in Australia) are aimed specifically at improving the health of Australians living in rural and remote areas. The authors argue that more NMHRC funding needs to be directed to research in rural hospitals.

Why is this useful for rural and remote people to read?

The article provides rural and remote people with useful data on the extent to which rural people experience discrimination in access to health research dollars. Rural and remote people pay taxes, and generate 65% of Australia’s export wealth through commodities trade, and experience the worst health outcomes of all Australians, yet only 2.4% of health research funding is spent in rural areas. These figures are useful to incorporate into any proposals or submissions regarding the inequity experienced by rural and remote people.

However, some caution needs to be exercised in reading the recommendations of the authors. The authors use this data to justify investment in hospital-based research. But the only hospitals capable of doing research in health are in major regional cities. In effect, the article aims to take an argument about rural health outcomes, and turn it into a funding case for regional cities.

But more investment in regional cities would not address the critical area of research gap in Australia is how to improve rural recruitment and retention of health and medical workforce; improving access to local chronic disease care; addressing the social determinants of health; improving rural community engagement in health research; and, expanding clinical trials to rural general practice. This is where new funding would make the biggest impact.

More NMHRC funding for regional universities is a good thing, but it would be a waste to replicate hospital research capacity in regional cities when this type of research is already done well in major cities) e.g. into novel cancer treatments, new vaccines etc) and benefit rural people regardless of where it is undertaken.

Where we need funding is in rural primary health and social care, not regional hospitals, but this is not what the article argues for.



Suggested Citation (go to Get Document if not provided)

HOOKER, L (2023), “Investment in community-based rural health care innovation to address health inequities in Australia” THE LANCET REGIONAL HEALTH, VOLUME 40, 100967, NOVEMBER 2023

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