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Addressing Health Disparities in Rural Australia

Addressing Health Disparities in Rural Australia
Image courtesy of ruralhealth.org.au

In a recent report released by the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), titled The Best for the Bush: Rural and Remote Health Baseline 2023, stark health inequalities between rural and urban populations in Australia have been highlighted.

The findings echo the calls from the National Rural Health Alliance for geographical health equity.

A Growing Disparity

The report reveals significant underspending on health in rural areas, leading to a higher burden of disease and shorter life expectancy compared to urban counterparts.

With preventable diseases rampant due to limited access to primary healthcare, rural Australians are missing out on an estimated $6.55 billion annually in healthcare, equating to $850 per person.

Call for Action

Susi Tegen, Chief Executive of the Alliance, emphasised the urgent need for increased and sustained funding for rural health. The proposed Primary Care Rural Integrated Multidisciplinary Health Services (PRIM-HS) model aims to address the unique healthcare needs of each rural community, advocating for local planning and leadership in service delivery.

A Unified Approach

The Alliance advocates for a National Rural Health Strategy aligned with the RFDS’s call for a National Compact on Rural and Remote Health. Such collaboration between Australian and state/territory governments is seen as crucial to bridging the healthcare gap between rural and urban areas.

Moving Forward

Ms Tegen stressed the importance of setting benchmarks and annually measuring progress to ensure accountability and equitable funding distribution.

With rural Australians still lacking comparable healthcare accessibility to their urban counterparts, urgent action is needed to implement the recommendations outlined in various healthcare reform reports.

As discussions continue, the call for improved healthcare in rural Australia resonates louder than ever, urging policymakers to address these pressing issues with effective and sustainable solutions.