Shoalhaven campus grounds

Shoalhaven rural health conference shines a light on challenges facing regional communities

Shoalhaven rural health conference shines a light on challenges facing regional communities

Researchers and medical practitioners work together on long-term solutions

Rural and regional areas are facing extensive challenges when it comes to health. While many of these are well-known, such as the shortage of medical practitioners and lack of access to services, other challenges, such as food insecurity, can be hidden but are no less devastating.

Researchers and medical practitioners will gather in Nowra this week (Friday 15 March to Saturday 16 March) to explore the challenges and opportunities to improve the health of rural and regional communities. 

The 2024 UOW Rural Health Research Conference, now in its second year at the University of Wollongong’s Shoalhaven Campus, is focused on how to solve the issues and improve health services for all through research, partnership, and capacity-building.

Under the theme of ‘Innovative Models of Rural and Regional Health Care’, the conference features two days of workshops and presentations that examine the length and breadth of the rural health landscape.

Presentation topics include Indigenous health; opioid use in pain management; head and neck cancer; reducing obesity in cardiac patients; food insecurity; mental health and suicide prevention, and the ongoing shortage of rural doctors and medical practitioners.

The presentations and workshops will be hosted by academics and medical experts in the fields of dietetics, medicine, nursing, cancer, and physics, many with links to UOW.

UOW Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Patricia M Davidson said multidisciplinary perspectives and solutions, driven by research, were crucial to addressing the challenges facing rural health.

“The fundamental issues that are impacting health systems in regional and rural areas, such as access to vital services and ongoing staff shortages, are very real and can, and do, cause very real harm to those communities. But by shining a light on the issues, and by bringing together the best and brightest medical and research minds, we can do our bit to create change and improve essential health services, in the Shoalhaven and Illawarra and beyond.

“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.”

Professor Andrew Bonney, long-term general practitioner on the South Coast and Associate Head of School Research Strategy for UOW’s Graduate School of Medicine, said the challenges facing rural health are many and varied, and demand a greater focus from the research and medical community.

“It has been clear for many years that health services in rural and regional areas are in a state of crisis. They face a lack of staff, funding and resources that has a devastating impact on the day to day lives of the many people who live in these communities.

“The annual UOW Rural Health Research Conference brings together experts from across the medical and research fields. It is a valuable opportunity to examine the challenges, how we improve the sector and support communities, and how research can help us to better understand the issues and make a true, lasting impact with tangible solutions.”

For more information about the 2024 UOW Rural Health Research Conference, visit: