Rurality and remoteness can be considered as a set of characteristics, including greater distances, lower socioeconomic status, lower educational levels, higher proportions of Indigenous people, specific occupational health and safety risks, a relatively close relationship with nature, specific cultural attitudes, poor access to services and smaller population centres.
There are a number of ways in the above characteristics can impact of health services, including the:
- Prevalence of a health-related condition
- Rate of incidence of a health-related event
- Cost and timing of an intervention
- Type and range of health professional and worker delivering the service
- Way in which the service is delivery (i.e. model of care, delivery mode)
- Total health impact of particular rates of incidence and prevalence.
What is most important to note, is that each of these characteristics has both a downside or risk (on which the sector has traditionally focused) and a potential upside or benefit.
For example, the relative scarcity of services means poor access and stretched services, with the potential consequence of poor staff morale and considerable queuing. The upside of this might be that the services are better integrated and more easily navigated by consumers because of their relative scarcity, and their delivery more rewarding for those who provide them. Certainly, there do seem to be fewer professional turf wars in more remote areas. As another example, the ‘greater distances’ characteristic can be seen as ‘distance from help’ (risk or downside) or ‘greater independence’ (benefit or upside).
Remoteness, Rurality & You
When considering the impact of rurality and remoteness of the way you delivery your services, think about the impact from both a risk (downside) and benefit (upside) perspective. Remote and rural practice brings many opportunities for innovative health services and practice, as well as the traditionally considered challenges.
- Gregory G. Impact of rurality on health practices and services: Summary paper to the inaugural rural and remote health scientific symposium. Australian Journal of Rural Health, vol 17, pp. 49-52; 2009.