A stehoscope in the foreground with a healthcare practitioner

Inaugural conference to examine acute challenges facing rural health system

Inaugural conference to examine acute challenges facing rural health system

Associate Professor Marlene Longbottom to deliver keynote address at Shoalhaven event

The challenges facing the rural health system are well-documented and well-known: difficulty attracting and retaining staff, fewer resources, lack of access to services, and building capacity and resilience in times of disaster and emergency.

The 2023 Shoalhaven Rural Health Research Conference aims to unpack many of these issues, and more, while focusing on how to improve rural health services through collaboration, research and innovation.

The inaugural, nation-wide conference will be held at the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) Shoalhaven Campus on Saturday (March 18) with a theme of Connection and Capacity Building.

Associate Professor Marlene Longbottom, a proud Yuin woman from Roseby Park (Jerrinja) Mission in the Shoalhaven, will deliver the keynote address, titled ‘Connection and Country’.

As Principal Research Fellow at the Ngarruwan Ngadju First Peoples Health and Wellbeing Research Centre at UOW, Associate Professor Longbottom has worked extensively in the health and human services sector with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities from urban, regional and remote areas of New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory.

The keynote address will be followed by a series of workshops on the rural health and research landscape, hosted by UOW academics and primary healthcare professional across the fields of dietetics and nutrition, nursing, medicine and Indigenous health.

A curated collage of images from the Shoalhaven Rural Health Conference, showing speakers and the audience.

Professor Andrew Bonney, Director of the General Practice Research and Education Network at UOW’s Graduate School of Medicine, said access to health care was one of the greatest issues facing rural communities.   

“The health and wellbeing of communities in rural and regional areas are every bit as important as those in bigger cities. That should be self-evident, but unfortunately rural health care continues to face a maldistribution of staff, resources and funding that have a very real impact on the lives of people in these areas,” said Professor Bonney, who is a practising GP in the Shoalhaven.

“The inaugural Shoalhaven Rural Health Research Conference will bring together experts from across the health landscape to examine what works, what doesn’t, how we can improve the sector and better support our communities, and how research can make a tangible impact.”

UOW Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Patricia M. Davidson, a global leader in nursing, health care and advocacy, will speak at the conference. She said the challenges facing rural health were complex and demanded multi-disciplinary solutions driven by research.

“Our rural communities, including in the Shoalhaven, are at a disadvantage when it comes to health and wellbeing, with often limited access to skilled medical professionals,” Professor Davidson said.

“The shortage of vital healthcare workers – doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals – has devastating and cumulative impacts for these communities. Research plays an essential role in driving change, and I know the brilliant experts and academics who are taking part in this conference are at the forefront of supporting our rural communities. 

“The conference will bring together a broad variety of perspectives from academics, the industry and practitioners across rural-related health care disciplines, and in doing so, will help researchers forge new connections and build on their capacity for research.”

For more information about the 2023 Shoalhaven Rural Health Research Conference, visit: https://www.uow.edu.au/events/2023/2023-inaugural-shoalhaven-rural-health-research-conference.php