Participants in the 4th Rural and Remote Health Scientific Symposium in Canberra last week committed to a National Strategy and Action Plan for maximising the value of rural and remote health research.
There was a very positive feeling at the Symposium, with data agencies, researchers and policy makers all clearly keen to play their part in improving the health of people in rural and remote areas. There is plenty of data available, and its application to the task can be further improved through closer relationships between the parties.
Senior officers of government and representatives of the private sector are willing to talk with researchers about potential projects as they are being developed. Custodians of the data - from the ABS, AHPRA and NHPA, for example - are keen to see maximum value from the use of their information with appropriate privacy considerations.
And agencies such as the Public Health Information Development Unite (PHIDU), headed by John Glover, are already demonstrating on a daily basis the targeted use to which data can be put. Anyone who is not familiar with PHIDU's capacity to provide bespoke reports should take the time to investigate: http://www.adelaide.edu.au/phidu/
The national data holders emphasised the importance of researchers being clear about the local questions that need to be answered, and understanding the strengths, limitations and purpose of the various collections and analyses.
And policymakers highlighted their interest in evidence about interventions that do not provide good value for money, in order to free up funding for more effective initiatives.
The 4th Rural and Remote Health Scientific Symposium resulted in a set of action steps which all interested parties are encouraged to support. Continuing action on these will be led by the four agencies that managed the symposium: the National Rural Health Alliance, the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute at the ANU, the Primary Health Care Research & Information Service at Flinders University, and the Australian Rural Health Education Network.