The National Rural Health Conference has always struck me as one of the more interesting health conferences going, mainly because of its holistic approach. It tends to focus on the wellbeing of communities rather than body parts, and its program reflects a view of health that goes beyond health services.
The 11th National Rural Health Conference kicks off in Perth on Sunday, and I will be there to provide reports for Croakey readers, having managed to wrangle myself a spot on the program.
So, here’s your chance to tell a journalist what you’d like covered. Have a look at the program.
If you have an interest in a particular session, let me know and I will try to get there.
If you’ve questions you’d like put to particular presenters, let me know.
And if you’d like to find out more about any of the presenters – perhaps a mini-profile – let me know.
The program includes the usual workforce and health service issues, and also addresses Indigenous health, the arts and health, environmental issues, mental health and racism, the federal policy vacuum in oral health, palliative care, recovery from bushfires and other disasters, and has quite a few presentations around public participation.
A number of Croakey contributors are due to present, including:
• the Centre for Policy Development’s John Menadue, who will speak on the costs and benefits of reform in the rural and remote health workforce
• Curtin University’s Professor Mike Daube on public health in the bush
• The Centre for Remote Health’s Professor John Wakerman on retaining rural and remote health professionals.
I will also be running two lunchtime sessions (please come along and say hello):
• How Twitter can help rural health
• Developments in the media and their implications for rural health (including how YouCommNews, a website to enable community commissioning and funding of journalism, might be used to investigate issues of concern to rural communities).
As noted in the Crikey COI statement, the National Rural Health Alliance is meeting my travel and accommodation expenses for attending the conference.
Meanwhile, on other rural matters…
Towards the end of last year, I interviewed a number of rural doctors about their professional and personal lives for this article recently published in Australian Rural Doctor magazine (and also posted on the website of Rural Health Workforce Australia).
The article, “The Best Kept Secret”, notes that efforts to attract attention to rural health needs – whether by researchers seeking funding, or medical groups after political and policy action – often create a picture of overworked, underpaid rural doctors who are not particularly happy with their lot.
But if you dig beyond this rhetoric, the lot of doctors working outside the metropolitan centres is often not so bad. They are relatively well paid, and relatively satisfied with their lot – though of course many work long hours.
My article cites expert saying that the promotion of a “deficit” representation of rural health can work against the recruitment of health professionals to the bush, by contributing to the stereotyping of rural and remote health as problematic environments in which to work.
This seems like an issue of import beyond rural health. Perhaps services in other under-served areas, whether the metropolitan fringes or Indigenous health, might have more success in attracting scarce workforce if they put more effort into promoting the positives of such jobs.
It often strikes me that it is the under-served areas that tend to breed innovation. For another story, I recently interviewed a community services worker who had experience working in a wealthy and a disadvantaged area of Sydney. She found the working environment in the wealthy area to be far more rigid and less amenable to innovation than the poorer area. And for another recent story, a medical specialist working in western Sydney told me she preferred working there, in an under-resourced area, because “people are resourceful and innovative”.
Of course, a few anecdotes do not prove anything, but it does seem like an area worth exploring further.