Boost rural health to Close the Gap

Boost rural health to Close the Gap

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Boosting rural health teams - and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctor workforce - would greatly assist in Closing the Gap on life expectancy and child mortality says the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA).

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As long as there remains a shortage of doctors and other health professionals working in rural and remote Australia, we will continue to face an uphill push in improving health outcomes for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who live there.

Yet these improvements are so desperately required.

The recent Closing the Gap report published by the Federal Government shows that most Closing the Gap targets continue not to be met, most critically in the area of health, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Worryingly, this includes the ongoing gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous child mortality rates, and poor life expectancy outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The provision of high quality, culturally appropriate care, directly into rural and remote communities, is pivotal to improving these outcomes.

We must ensure that appropriate investment is being made to secure enough highly-trained doctors - with the necessary skills and passion to work in these communities - to deliver these services into the future, and to make a real difference in outcomes.

We must ensure that appropriate investment is being made to secure enough highly-trained doctors - with the necessary skills and passion to work in these communities - to deliver these services into the future, and to make a real difference in outcomes.

A National Rural Generalist Pathway - now in the final stages of development - will develop the future pipeline of Rural Generalist doctors with the advanced skills needed to work in rural and remote Australia. We are very hopeful that the full implementation of the Pathway will be funded in the forthcoming Federal Budget.

Training our own home-grown Rural Generalist doctors, many of whom will undertake advanced skill training in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health - as well as further building our workforce of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors - means we will have an entire generation of young doctors ready and able to make a real difference in Closing the Gap.

Boosting the Rural Generalist doctor workforce will also help ensure the continued operation of many hospitals and medical services that provide high quality care to rural and remote Aboriginal communities, and support continued or expanded maternity services allowing safe birthing to take place on Country - an issue that is so important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Dr Adam Coltzau

Dr Adam Coltzau

It is also crucial that doctors and other health professionals have access to real-time clinical information on the major chronic conditions impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, so this can be readily referred to during patient consults. To this end, we would like to see the reinstatement of the much-valued ClinicalInfoNettoolbar resource that was previously funded by the Federal Government, and sat as a real-time resource on the consulting room desktops of doctors and other health professionals.

Ongoing cultural awareness training of health professionals is also critical, to ensure that doctors and other health professionals can communicate appropriately with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, and be aware of any potential barriers or disincentives that these patients face in accessing healthcare and managing their own health.

Dr Adam Coltzau is the president of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia 

The story Boost rural health to Close the Gap first appeared on Farm Online.

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