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Rural Health System Resources


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


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 expectancy. 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?

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 generate 65% of Australia’s export wealth through commodities trade, yet experience the worst health outcomes of all Australians. 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 because of underinvestment in rural and remote hospitals, the only hospitals capable of doing research in health are in major regional cities. In effect, the article takes an argument about the inequity experienced by rural and remote people, and turns it into a funding case for regional cities.

More investment in regional cities will not address the critical research gaps in Australia: how to improve rural and remote recruitment and retention of health and medical workforce; improving access to local chronic disease care; sustainable models of care for rural and remote people; appropriate funding frameworks for rural and remote health; 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 and MRFF funding for regional universities is a good thing, but that research must be based in the communities that the funding is intended to support - rural and remote communities.

Suggested Citation

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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