Some of the key research relating to rural and remote health has been undertaken through funding from the Primary Health Care Research, Evaluation and Development (PHCRED) Strategy. Since 2000 the Australian Government has invested some $135 million in the Strategy.
Recognising that high quality and robust evidence is a critical element in health policy development, the overall purpose of PHCRED is to improve patient outcomes through better primary care systems, services and practice.
One of the priorities in the period 2010-2014 has been improving access to primary care and reducing inequity, which has meant a focus on rural and remote areas.
The two key organisations under the Strategy are the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute (APHCRI) and the Primary Health Care Research & Information Service (PHC RIS). APHCRI commissions research from leading academic institutions including a network of Centres of Research Excellence (CREs), one of which has been focusing on rural and remote primary care.
The NRHA has been on the National Advisory Committee for this CRE, and the final meeting of the committee was held in Canberra on Wednesday 13 August. The meeting was provided with a summary of this CRE's accomplishments in each of its research areas: primary care service access and equity; primary care service evaluation framework; a sustainable model for primary care in rural and remote areas; and research capacity building.
The meeting also heard from Terry Findlay, Head of Programs at APHCRI, about the organisation's strategic focus for the coming triennium. Its emphasis will be on implementation: developing evidence to inform policy through research translation.
In the week following the meeting of the Advisory Committee, an important paper produced by this CRE was published in BMC Family Practice. The paper is titled What core primary health care services should be available to Australians living in rural and remote communities? Its authors are Susan Thomas, John Wakerman and John Humphreys.
The NRHA will be among those bodies advocating for continued funding in the next phase of PHCRED to enable both APHCRI and PHCRIS to continue their strong leadership in relation to primary care research and implementation, including in particular for rural and remote areas.