Purpose

To agree a set of common messages from rural health peak bodies to political parties that reinforce the importance of and need for investment in rural health research and capabilities.

Context

A number of rural health peak bodies such as the National Rural Health Alliance, Spinifex, ARHEN and FRAME share a common aim of promoting the need for greater investment in rural health research as a part of a holistic and integrated approach to improving rural health outcomes.

The next federal election provides an opportunity for rural health peaks to collectively reinforce the importance of investment in rural health research as part of their pre-election submissions to political parties. 

If political parties hear a common and united message from the rural health sector, they are more likely to identify an issue as a priority and support policy or funding proposals.

Proposed messages

It is recommended that organisations consider incorporating the following messages into their
pre-election submissions, noting that each organisation will develop its own specific policy or funding proposals.  

1. Greater investment in rural health research

Additional investment in rural health research is essential for understanding the causes of poorer health in rural and remote Australia as well as identifying strategies to improve the health and wellbeing of people in these regions. 

In 2018, only 2.4% of NHMRC funding went towards research that specifically aimed to deliver health benefits to people who live in rural or remote Australia.  Given the health inequities experienced by people in rural and remote Australia, greater equity in funding for rural health research is required.

2. Leveraging rural presence and relationships

Rural health research is best led and conducted by rurally-based health professionals and academics working in partnership with their local communities and service providers. Rural health professionals and academics who are known and trusted by their local community are well-placed to co-design and conduct research that responds to local needs and to facilitate the translation of such research into better practices and services.

3. Research opportunities support workforce retention

Opportunities to conduct research can act as powerful incentive for health professionals and academics to remain working in rural and remote locations. Creating research pathways for
rurally-based health professionals and academics helps to build skills and capabilities, expand employment prospects and support career progression, all of which assists with workforce retention.

4.Fair and transparent grant processes

All health research grants processes should incorporate eligibility and selection criteria that encourages applications from rurally-based researchers to build rural health research capacity and experience.  Setting measurable and reportable targets for investment in rural health research helps to support transparency and ensure equity of access for rural communities and professionals.

1 Barclay L, Phillips A, Lyle D. Rural and remote health research: Does the investment match the need? Australian Journal of Rural Health 2018;26(2):74-79.