Health Priorities in Australia
People living in rural and isolated locations
Population groups living in rural and remote areas have distinctive health concerns that relate directly to their living conditions, social isolation and distance from health services. The health and wellbeing of populations living in rural and isolated areas is generally poorer than those living in capital cities and other urban areas. Epidemiology has shown the further a person lives from a metropolitan area, the greater the risk of mortality and illness - those living in rural and remote areas also have the concern that lower socioeconomic status is related to their geographic position. The inequality between rural and urban areas is being worsened by the constant breakdown of social justice and economic infrastructure in rural areas – these changes are having an increasingly adverse impact on the health and quality of life of rural and remote Australians. People living in rural and isolated locations have higher mortality rates and also experience higher hospitalisation rates for some causes of ill health. This report compares the health of rural and remote populations with that of those Australians living in city areas.
A categorization of the areas in which Australians live has been developed - taken from a study of population and remoteness. These classifications have been divided into three main categories; metropolitan, rural and remote. Approximately 70% of Australians live in metropolitan zones – generally speaking, the lesser the population, the poorer the health experienced by the people. Life-expectancy varies within geographic location; those living in urban areas can expect to live longer than those living in remote areas, and to a lesser extent, those living in rural areas. The total death rate for those living in metropolitan areas are 6% lower than for those living in large rural centres and 20% lower than for those living in remote centres - some of this may be attributable to communities having a large number of Indigenous people; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders usually have higher mortality rates and die younger than other Australians.
Rural and regional Australia is a priority population group home to disproportionate numbers of people with lower levels of education, lower employment status and job security, poorer housing and access to health care services as well suffering health inequalities within Australian Health Priorities – these inequalities exist as a result of lack of social justice and equity within the nation.
Remote communities can suffer from a lack of access to sources of individual and community wellbeing such as educational facilities. Statistics indicate that as population density declines, social disadvantages increases. Younger people are leaving these communities to improve their chances of gaining access to educational opportunites which do not exist in many rural areas, due to the decreasing amounts of students to be educated, rural areas are experiencing a decline in standards of education corresponding with a declining access. It is important to note that education training relates to school and tertiary training as not all levels of education have the same access issues; in relation to primary and secondary schooling, the quality of education for rural and remote students is adversely affected by a combination of factors including reduced choices of subjects, a lack of library facilities, lack of access to technology and a predominance of inexperienced staff with most rural schools having a lower student-teacher ratio than urban schools. For teachers, the lack of training for isolated work, a lack of support services, lack of specialist services and a lack of professional development opportunities all combine to make isolated teaching challenging. The high turnover of staff and, in many cases, understaffing, dramatically...