Bridging The Divide Between The Health Sector And Rural New Zealand


World Health Day brings an opportunity to reflect on the
unique challenges rural communities face in accessing
healthcare, infrastructure, and services essential to their
overall wellness.

Up to 1 in 4 New Zealanders are
living in rural communities. Whether that be from the urban
boundary to truly remote or working in the primary sector to
living rurally on a lifestyle block or in a rural town,
rural communities encounter unique challenges that city
dwellers do not face.

Dr Garry Nixon, Head of Rural
Section of the Department of General Practice and Rural
Health at Otago University and doctor in Central Otago, is
well-versed in the key health concerns affecting rural New
Zealanders.

Dr Nixon, who took part in the panel
discussion, Taking
the pulse of rural health
, on Fieldays TV last year,
says access to health services is a significant challenge
rural communities are up against.

“Distance is a
barrier and rural people don’t get the same access to
specialist care. Providing good and accessible healthcare in
rural areas means doing things differently to the way they
are done in town – not simply providing scaled down
versions of urban healthcare.”

Another major issue
affecting the health and wellness of rural communities is
the severe shortage of doctors and other health
professionals in rural areas. Dr Nixon says that to resolve
this, training needs to be centred in rural
regions.

“The international evidence tells us that
if we want health professionals to work in rural areas, we
need to train them there.

“This needs a targeted
central government initiative to work with the universities
to create a rural clinical school or equivalent
solution.”

He adds that improving access to services
and health outcomes for rural Māori is an important
priority, saying: “Rural Māori have poorer health
outcomes than both urban Māori and rural
non-Māori.”

To determine the extent of urban-rural
health inequities in Aotearoa New Zealand, Dr Nixon and his
research team have developed a ‘Geographic Classification
for Health’ (GCH). This tool classifies residential
addresses as either urban or rural from a health
perspective, and in turn, will better inform policy
regarding rural health.

“The GCH will provide more
accurate measures of the health of rural New Zealanders,”
says Dr Nixon.

“We are already starting to see this
in the data. For example, the GCH is demonstrating higher
mortality rates for a number of conditions in rural areas,
something that is not evident using older and generic
urban-rural classifications.”

Another service
bridging the urban-rural divide in healthcare is the
Fieldays Health and Wellbeing Hub, run in collaboration with
Christchurch-based rural health provider, Mobile
Health.

Here, Fieldays event goers can receive a
wealth of free check-ups, tests, and advice, from skin
cancer spot checks, blood glucose tests, blood pressure
tests, and atrial fibrillation checks, to smear tests,
hearing checks, hepatitis C tests, and confidential mental
health support.

The fact that 33,000 people came
through the Health and Wellbeing Hub at Fieldays 2021
further demonstrates the need for greater healthcare access
and services in rural New Zealand.

Andrew Panckhurst,
Communications Manager at Mobile Health, says that over 30
health and wellness partners will be a part of the Health
and Wellbeing Hub for Fieldays 2022.

“We will
continue to have a strong emphasis on mental health and
wellbeing, along with promoting melanoma skin checks for
early detection.

“As always, we’re expecting a
great turnout and look forward to welcoming everyone
involved. It’s a fantastic couple of days of innovation,
education, and globalisation.”

New partners will be
joining the Hub at Fieldays 2022, including Dementia Waikato
and Alzheimers New Zealand, who will provide important
awareness and education on neurological
conditions.

Organisations that provide a health and
wellness service and want to help bridge the urban-rural
healthcare divide, are encouraged to register their interest
for Fieldays 2022.

ABOUT FIELDAYS

Fieldays is
based on a 114-hectare site at Mystery Creek 10 minutes from
Hamilton and is the largest agricultural event in the
Southern Hemisphere.

Fieldays draws people from around
the globe – both as exhibitors and visitors. Fieldays
Online, launched in 2020 as a world first during COVID-19,
attracted 90,455 total visitors and viewership from more
than 75 different countries.

Fieldays 2021 saw 132,776
people visit the event, becoming the second biggest in the
event’s 53-year history. Fieldays 2022 has been postponed
until Wednesday November 30 to Saturday December 3,
2022.

Fieldays is run by New Zealand National Fieldays
Society, a charitable organisation founded in 1968 for the
purpose of advancing the primary industries.

The New
Zealand National Fieldays Society thanks their key partners
Hyundai, Farmlands, and Vodafone for their continued
support.

For more information head to www.fieldays.co.nz.

© Scoop Media

 



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