Population increase a challenge to health systems

30 January 2014

Professor David Perkins’ editorial in the February 2014 issue of the Australian Journal of Rural Health (AJRH) draws attention to the challenges to Australia's health system of projected increases in the nation's population. The Australian Bureau of Statistics projects a population of 36.8 - 48.3 million people by 2061.

"Where will these people live and who will care for them?" Professor Perkins asks. "Will we still be using the same service models in which we wait for people to develop symptoms and then muster the forces of specialist and curative medicine to heal them? How will our life expectancy change and in particular our disability-free life expectancy? Will we see an increase in retirement age or the age at which superannuation pensions become available? How will our population age-structure change and will our actions to address diet, exercise and health literacy make any difference?”

The current review of Medicare Locals will establish important parameters within which these questions will have to be answered. There is much to be done if we are to assure appropriate health services for the more than 6.7 million people of rural and remote Australia.

Now in its 22nd year of publication, AJRH continues to publish high-quality research and evaluation studies about new services and responses to emerging health problems.

In the same AJRH issue, Lisa Bourke and others write about mentoring as a retention strategy for the rural and remote health workforce. Rachael Purcell and Joe McGirr examine the role of rural GPs and other health workers in meeting the challenges of climate change and extreme weather.

In their article, Craig Sinclair and others report that culturally appropriate methods of engaging Aboriginal people in advance care planning discussions should make use of Aboriginal Health Workers and take a whole of community approach.

In a study of paediatric aero-medical retrievals in the ‘Top End’, Claire Baker and Mark Ross report that respiratory disease is the most common reason for aero-medical transport. The majority of patients are transferred with a flight nurse and do not require high-dependency care.

In response to workforce shortages and limited services in rural areas, Catherine Hakanson and others report on a study which confirms the value of an innovative approach featuring care by a nurse-led multidisciplinary team to manage female sexual dysfunction. In a separate article, Jane Tomnay and others report that while barriers external to rural sexual health services may remain, free online STI testing services are acceptable to rural young people.

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Gordon Gregory – Executive Director: 02 6285 4660

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