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Winning the rural health battle

ALLIED health workers are breaking the service deficit in the bush, so says this week’s National Conference for Rural and Remote Allied Health Professionals.

They may be the forgotten heroes of Australia’s health sector, but an array of allied health providers – including audiologists, chiropractors, and physiotherapists – will share evidence from around Australia about how they are bringing more services to rural and remote communities.

CEO of the conference organiser, Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health (SARRAH), Rod Wellington said the conference was unique in Australia because of its focus on allied health in rural settings.

“We will bring together the leading minds in rural allied health research and practice to shine a light on the forgotten part of health care in Australia – the allied health providers who work outside the cities,” he said.

“Without them, many Australians would suffer with worse health outcomes, more hospital admissions and disability – as the presentations at this year’s conference so clearly demonstrate.”

The conference will be hosted at Kingscliff, NSW, and is set to open with a video message from Prime Minister Tony Abbott, followed by an official opening presentation by NSW Labor Senator Deborah O’Neill.

Professions classified under allied health include: audiology, chiropractics, dental and oral health, dietetics and nutrition, diabetes education, exercise physiology, genetic counselling, health promotion, medical radiation science, occupational therapy, optometry, osteopathy, paramedic practice, physiotherapy, podiatry, prosthetics and orthotics, psychology, social work, speech pathology and sonography.

Delegates will hear a range of accounts about how such workers have raised health access for people living in rural and regional areas, such as how a physiotherapist and occupational therapist in a new job-share role reduced re-admissions of patients at a Toowoomba, Queensland, hospital.

A vision screening program for students in rural Victoria will also be represented, which found 30 per cent of Year One had common eye conditions such as amblyopia (‘lazy eye’) and refractive errors that impair reading and learning.

Remote Kangaroo Island now has a reliable flow of foot care, thanks to the introduction of a system of brokering the service of podiatrists from other sites in the region with spare capacity.

Other presenters will share models that break the service deficit, such as the dental Sun Smiles program which now has 1000 children enrolled across rural Victoria and NSW. Research shows more than 80pc of enrolled children missed out on preventive dental care prior to the Sun Smiles project.

11th National Conference for Rural and Remote Allied Health Professionals, September 17-20, Mantra on Salt Beach, Kingscliff, NSW.

The story Winning the rural health battle first appeared on Farm Online.