Research review must map a brighter future for rural and remote health

03 October 2011

New Chairperson of the National Rural Health Alliance, Lesley Barclay, has welcomed the recent announcement by the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, of a broad and independent review of health and medical research in Australia.

“The 10 year strategic health and medical research plan for the nation that is to be shaped by this review will be critical for the health of the seven million people who live outside the major cities. It must provide the evidence to underpin the nation’s efforts to equalise the health of people in city and rural areas,” Professor Barclay said.

“When the Alliance met with the Minister recently, we were pleased to hear him emphasise that health
and medical research must be linked to areas of greatest health need,” she said.
“There is ample evidence already that morbidity and mortality is disproportionately higher in rural
areas. Overall, rural people have four years less life expectancy than their city cousins. In aggregate,
rural populations are older, poorer, have higher rates of health risk factors such as obesity and
smoking, and worse health outcomes for conditions such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

“Australia is blessed with a body of rural and remote health researchers, but the resource base for them
within rural, regional and remote areas needs to be boosted and assured,” Professor Barclay said.

“There should be affirmative action for rural and remote health service research, to build capacity and
networks within rural areas.”
The independent review will need to consult widely with rural and remote health research interests.

A strong rural health research sector also makes a significant contribution to rural economies and
underpins critical programs to build the rural health workforce through providing rural education and
training opportunities.

Many of the individuals and agencies involved in rural health research are being drawn closer together
through work in train on the 3rd Rural and Remote Health Scientific Symposium. It is being run under
the auspices of the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute, the Primary Health Care
Research and Information Service, the Australian Rural Health Education Network and the National
Rural Health Alliance.

Like the research review just announced, next year’s Symposium will emphasise the need for
collaboration between researchers, clinicians, industry, community leaders and policy makers to
achieve rapid translation of research outcomes into improved health policies and practices.

Media Enquiries: 

Prof. Lesley Barclay - Chair: 02 6620 7231
Gordon Gregory - Executive Director: 02 6285 4660