Monday, 27 May 2024 10:23

Research highlights struggle for good health outcomes in rural areas

Written by  Staff Reporters
Dr Fiona Bolden, chair of Hauora Taiwhenua. Dr Fiona Bolden, chair of Hauora Taiwhenua.

According to Hauora Taiwhenua Rural Health Network’s Rural Health New Zealand Snapshot 2024, those in rural areas have poorer health outcomes than those in urban areas.

The findings reveal that rural people are falling behind in almost every metric, and the more rurally they live, the worse their comparable health.

Key data shows:

  • Significantly higher mortality rates from preventable causes;
  • Higher rates of suicide, particularly in men;
  • Twice as many people living in social and economic deprivation, particularly in more remote areas;
  • Much lower educational qualifications at NCEA and Tertiary level;
  • Fewer families with access to mobile phones and internet in their homes;
  • Low vaccination rates;
  • Fewer rural people accessing hospital care

Dr Fiona Bolden, chair of Hauora Taiwhenua, describes the research findings as an “indictment on the low priority that has been given to the health and wellbeing of rural people by this and previous Governments”.

She says Hauora Taiwhenua presented the findings to Minister for Mental Health Matt Doocey and Minister for Rural Communities Mark Patterson earlier this month in an effort to seek Government support for the prioritisation of rural Kiwis in future budgets and planning.

“It is long past the time for rhetoric,” Bolden says. “We need to see action and priority given to funding the higher cost of health delivery in rural and remote parts of New Zealand which is further complicated by social deprivation and the larger percentage of 65-year-olds who live rurally.”

“We made it very clear to them that the provision of a telehealth service to underserved whanau with limited access to technology and data, while needing wrap-around primary health care, was not the answer,” she says.

Dr Grant Davidson, chief executive of Hauora Taiwhenua, says the organisation has offered to work with the Government to implement appropriate solutions that will make a difference to rural communities.

“We will look to hold this and future Governments to account for clear strategies and targeted funding so that the health of our rural people is not continued to be neglected,” Davidson says.

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