Saturday, 18 June 2016 11:10

Rural Health Alliance takes lead role in new initiatives

Written by 
Michelle Thompson, chief executive of RHĀNZ. Michelle Thompson, chief executive of RHĀNZ.

The Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHĀNZ) is taking a lead role in two of the Government's rural mental wellness initiatives announced at Fieldays yesterday.

The first announcement includes the development of a Framework to Improve Mental Health and Addiction Outcomes for rural New Zealanders and the second is a continuation of the Emergency Response to Support Rural Mental Health.

RHĀNZ will work with both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry for Primary Industries over the coming year.

"The Framework is a long overdue and exciting piece of work," says Michelle Thompson, chief executive of RHĀNZ.

"Shortly we will begin recruiting a team of experts from within the RHĀNZ membership - and other key stakeholder groups - to help us with this important and complex piece of work.

"We will also be continuing our work upskilling rural health professionals in suicide prevention strategies and strengthening the clinical linkages between rural health services on the ground and the rural support trusts around the country.

"We know that mental health outcomes are poorer for rural communities than urban communities."

Improving mental health and addiction outcomes and minimising suicide risk for rural populations is a top priority for all 42 members of RHĀNZ.

"Ensuring our rural communities have improved access to high quality, safe and effective health services that are able to enhance their mental wellbeing and social cohesiveness will be a key focus for this Framework," says Dr Jo Scott-Jones, chairperson of RHĀNZ.

RHĀNZ Council member and Federated Farmers health and safety spokesperson Katie Milne says this is a much needed resource in rural communities.

"Farmers are doing it tough at the moment and when times get rough we need a responsive system in place to provide expert support quickly," Dr Jo Scott-Jones.

"We're pleased this programme is continuing into the next phase; the longevity and sustainability of this important programme is a top priority.

"We believe RHĀNZ is expertly placed to lead this work as we bring together a valuable combination of rural health professionals, rural industry and rural community groups which is exactly what this complex issue needs,"

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