Health care access, mental health, and preventative health: health priority survey findings for people in the bush

Community health Mental health Emergency care Rural health
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Seven million Australians live in remote and rural Australia. On average, these seven million Australians have poorer health outcomes and live shorter lives than city residents. For example, the premature death rate is 1.6 times higher in remote Australia than in city areas. The percentage of people in remote areas with arthritis, asthma, deafness, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease is higher than in cities. The health behaviours of people in country areas are less conducive to good health than people in cities, with higher rates of smoking, obesity, and alcohol misuse in remote areas than in cities.

While there is ample evidence on the health access and outcome disparity between city and country Australia, there is little information about how country people themselves see these disparities. In response, the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) joined with the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) to assess the health needs of remote and rural Australians and to give voice to country Australians.

The key issues identified by the survey respondents represent the areas in which government policy efforts should be directed. The five most important issues identified by respondents overall were access to medical services; mental health; drugs and alcohol; cancer; and cardiovascular health. The areas of health that respondents identified money should be spent on included: access to medical services; mental health; health promotion and prevention activities; cancer; aged care; and travel and accommodation support for people needing to access health care outside of their community. Many of these areas are already the focus of government policy, but their inclusion in the findings of the survey suggest more effort and resources are required to address them.

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