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Families in rural settings

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J-6/2
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Product Description

By Cliff Picton, Peter E Foreman, Liz Morrison

Published: 2000
Pages: 152 (PDF version)

Overview

Editor:

Lawrie Maloney PhD
School of Public Health, La Trobe University, Melbourne

The bucolic vision of life on the land has been severely tested in recent decades. Years of drought, floods, and plagues of locusts, together with the collapse of commodity prices in world markets have brought many rural families to their knees. Bank closures, the drift of young people to the larger towns and cities, high unemployment, and a rising suicide rate are the stark realities faced by today's rural population. Their impact is reflected in changing patters of health and illness. As John Humphreys remarks, 'As economic and social changes create additional pressures for families, exacerbating existing problems of poor accessibility to services, the need to adopt a primary health care approach as the basis for rural health service provision is vital and urgent' (p.167).

This Special Issue of the JFS focuses attention on the circumstances of rural families from a wide variety of standpoints. This reflects the diversity of the rural population which is sometimes in danger of being stereotyped. A diverse population needs a range of services and options to provide choice and quality of life options that reflect different needs, aspirations, and talents. Guest editor, Amanda Young, and her colleagues, highlight the need to avoid creating a fake dichotomy between needs in rural and urban settings by describing the advantages for workers with spinal cord injuries receiving rehabilitation in rural areas.

Peterson examines challenges and inequity in providing access to health care at a time of cutbacks in services to rural and remote populations. He argues strongly for the use of modern information and communication technologies (e-health) to help bridge the gap.

Other articles in the collection address quality of life issues, cultural identity in Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders of Chinese ancestry, globalizing policy changes, men and childcare, rural mental health, and rural schooling.

The Practice Notes section conveniently and succinctly reviews much of the available evidence on the health problems of rural families and comments on several of the papers in this Issue. Peterson also critically examines key factors and challenges in providing access to health care at a time of cutbacks in services to rural and remote populations. He argues strongly for the use of modern information and communication technologies to help bridge the gap. Indeed, E-Health solutions seem to be the only way in which serious health inequities between rural and urban populations are likely to be addressed in the current climate of fiscal restraint. Time alone will tell as to their efficiency. As Peterson points out, 'Its successful implementation will depend upon good evaluation as well as the provision of services that lend a human face to the technology'. There is also the potential to lift some of the heavy burden from service providers who are already working in the level, particularly if the associated hardware can provide networks and linkages for community development.

This important collection utilises much of the available research to provide a succinct picture of the challenges facing rural communities and is recommended reading for health practitioners in rural areas as well as policy makers.


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