Funding disparity disadvantages rural residents

Rural health researchers at La Trobe University say the funding disparity between rural and metropolitan Australians is “inequitable and unfair” and are calling for greater investment in rural health research.

Professor Jane Mills, Dean of the La Trobe Rural Health School, co-authored an opinion piece with Dr Leesa Hooker and Dr Fiona Burgemeister.

They say the discrepancy is particularly concerning as rural residents already have poorer health than their urban counterparts.

Professor Mills said new models of health care are need in rural areas to address the inequities in outcomes.

“We already know that ‘what works’ in metropolitan areas does not automatically translate to rural and remote areas due to issues of setting and scale,” Professor Mills said.

“Funding research that goes beyond the remit of hospitals and enables the testing of novel place-based approaches, to rural health and health care in partnership with a wide range of industry partners, must be part of the solution to reducing the inequity gap.”

It is estimated that only 2.4 per cent of National Health and Medical Research Council funded projects are aimed specifically at improving the health of Australians living in rural and remote areas.

The La Trobe Rural Health School (LRHS) demonstrates the value of investment in rural health and its meaningful impact on communities.

The LRHS has used small grants to test new approaches on the delivery of healthcare with a range of industry partners.

In Mildura, La Trobe has partnered with Sunraysia Community Health to transform community health outcomes in various projects, such as extending the reach of place-based research.

La Trobe is working with McMaster University in Canada as part of a worldwide trial to introduce community paramedicine. In just a short amount of time, the trial has expanded to five different locations and engaged with more than 100 clients.

Dr Hooker, a rural nurse and midwife and LRHS Dean of Research Engagement, said available data from various projects has shown improved patient satisfaction, health outcomes and reduced hospital admissions.

“While these projects have often been funded by small grants, evidence shows they are having a significant, meaningful and lasting impact on communities,” Dr Hooker said.

“The research partnerships have led to ongoing trusted relationships with industry providers.”

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