In the Croakey Conference Reporting Service’s final report on the recent National Rural Health Conference in Darwin, Jennifer Doggett gives an overview of the priorities for rural health action, including calls for a Senate Inquiry into food security for remote communities.

Jennifer Doggett writes:

The influence of #ruralhealthconf will continue long after delegates have returned home and the last Hawaiian shirt has been packed away, thanks to the conference’s innovative online facility ‘The Sharing Shed’.

This online portal allowed for recommendations and priorities arising out of sessions and workshops to be developed collaboratively with delegates through a structured process. The Sharing Shed was very popular with delegates and over the course of the event around 360 recommendations were posted.

A Conference recommendations group, led by Dr Lesley Fitzpatrick, then reviewed all the recommendations (along with the online feedback provided) as well as the highlights of the Conference Twitter feed and the Keynote addresses.

From these various sources, a set of Interim Priority Recommendations was developed which were presented to a Conference plenary session for reflection and discussion. After feedback from the plenary session and additional contact with some delegates, a set of ten Final Priority Recommendations and the 13th Conference Communiqué were finalised.

The ten priority recommendations which emerged from the Conference offer the Government tangible suggestions as to how governments – both federal and state – can improve rural and remote health.

They include some very general issues – improving the health of children in rural areas – as well as some very specific – a ‘Senate Inquiry into food security for remote communities.”

Other recommendations include:

  • the development of a digital inclusion strategy for remote Australia;
  • a proposal for a National Rural Health Workforce Strategy;
  • and the urgent call for a funded Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal Health Strategy;
  • calls for further action to improve the health of children in rural areas and to promote good eye health for Indigenous people; and to expand access to Medicare-funded services in rural and remote Australia.

Together with the Conference Communique, the recommendations focus on key themes of prevention, public health, community-building and equity.

Overall, these documents reflect the words of Julian Disney in his keynote address: that most Australians are less self-interested and more focussed on equity and social justice than politicians realise.

When used to guide the advocacy and lobbying activities of the Alliance and its members, the recommendations will send a clear message to political leaders about the priorities and concerns of people in rural and remote areas in relation to their health care.

In this way, the recommendations and the Communique form both a record of #ruralhealthconf 15 and a pathway towards the next #ruralhealthconf in 2017.

• Read more about the conference here, in this detailed conference wrap by Dr Mel Considine, who says:

“Some of the main themes that I picked up on were the importance of taking each person and community in their context, the massive impact of the social, economic and cultural determinants of health on outcomes, building on sustainable telehealth, and the self-efficacy and resilience of regional, rural & remote health professionals.”

• Croakey’s coverage of the conference is compiled here.

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