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Rural and Remote Research Hub Project

Rural and remote communities and their health services are very different to their city counterparts. Approximately 22 per cent of the NSW population lives in rural or remote communities which are disparate in their nature and geographically dispersed. To provide “the right care, in the right place, at the right time”, as envisioned by the State’s Health Plan, creates many challenges in this environment. The NSW Rural Health Plan reflects the State’s vision of improving access to health services as close to home as possible by providing high quality care in local health services. Although there are many challenges to realising this vision, it also creates opportunities for innovative approaches to reduce the inequities between rural and metropolitan communities.

The Chief Executives of the seven rural local health districts have identified research as key to finding innovative and cost effective ways to meet these challenges. Greater focus is being placed on enhancing research capacity within the rural districts through working with local partners to find solutions to local issues that inform the development of policy for health service provision suited to rural settings. They have also identified the need to strengthen their collaboration to find common solutions and engage more effectively with speciality organisations and institutes to support these initiatives.

Professor Stephen Leeder and Tina Loppacher (OHMR) meeting with Stewart Dowrick – Chief  Executive, Warren Grimshaw – Board Chair and Mid North Coast Local Health District representatives[/caption]The expansion of health research in rural areas has a number of complementary goals. Firstly, it is important to identify and support research initiatives that focus on improving the health of rural and remote communities and will guide the development of models of care appropriate for the resources available to these communities. It is equally important that research-active local health districts create fulfilling career opportunities for their staff to ensure they continue to attract and retain a health workforce fully equipped to meet these challenges.

The rural districts are currently supporting the Rural and Remote Research Hub Project to establish whether a research entity would be feasible in rural and remote NSW. On behalf of the rural districts, Mid North Coast is coordinating this work. The Project aligns with the NSW Health and Medical Research Hub Strategy and is part-funded by the Office of Health and Medical Research. There are currently eight research hubs in NSW that are all situated within urban areas – Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong.

The definition of a Research Hub within the Hub Strategy does not readily apply across seven rural local health districts. The Project provides an opportunity for rural districts to develop a model for a research entity that fits the environment in which they live and operate. An environmental scan is underway to provide an understanding of the research environment within the rural districts and more broadly within NSW.

The Project is expected to be completed in July 2016 with a report for the rural Chief Executives providing recommendations on the way forward towards achieving this goal. Watch this space!

This article was provided by Lauren Weller, Rural and Remote Research Hub Coordinator.

Updated 4 years ago