Health promotion in remote communities

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Health promotion is an essential component of improving health outcomes in remote communities

Health promotion is an essential component of improving health outcomes in remote communities, which are often located in geographically isolated or economically disadvantaged areas. In these communities, access to healthcare services can be limited, making it crucial to prioritise preventive measures that promote healthy lifestyles and behaviors.

A 2022 Editorial published in the Health promotion Journal of Australia indicates that rural and remote Australia is home to some of the most diverse and culturally rich communities and land in the country. This provides incredible potential to promote the health and well-being of individ- uals, families and communities from social, economic and ecological standpoints.

Findings of another study published in 2015 in the Health Promotion International Journal reported that in rural communities there was agreement about lack of resources (material and people) to update health promotion knowledge and skills. The findings suggested that rural and remote nurses were more likely to have limited educational opportunities. The researchers hoped that community nurse leaders would collectively become more effective health promoters and contribute to healthy reform in primary health care sectors.

Similarly, in 2008, the rising physical and mental wellbeing problems in Australia, particularly in rural and remote Australia, were researched and investigated and results published in the Australian Journal of Rural Health.

The majority of reports, in global and national level, make strong recommendations for developing health promotion interventions, research, policy and campaigns. There are many examples of physical and psychological health promotion campaigns that have been launched in recent years. Here are a few examples: "Mental Health Matters" campaign, "Healthy Minds Philly" campaign, "Mind Your Head" campaign, and Australia's very own "Stress Down Day" campaign, "Take a Step" campaign, "R U OK?" campaign, "LiveLighter" campaign, "Slip, Slop, Slap" campaign, "SunSmart" campaign, and "Country Education Foundation of Australia" campaigns.

in 2010, Australia's National Rural Health Alliance reported that rural populations had an estimated 26.5 per cent greater burden of chronic disease than populations in major cities, with the leading causes being ischaemic heart disease, diabetes, and anxiety and depression. As we are approaching mid 2022, and considering all the lessons learned during the COVID pandemic, health promotion remains one of the most important and key areas that requires immediate, ongoing and major investment and attention paid by public and private organisations and communities.

Profile of rural and remote Australians

According to the public data made available by the Australian Governments' Institute of Health and Welfare, around 7 million people – or 28% of the Australian population – live in rural and remote areas, which encompass many diverse locations and communities (ABS 2022c). The majority of Australians live in Major cities compared with rural and remote areas. As at 30 June 2021, the proportion of Australians by area of remoteness was: 72% in Major cities 18% in Inner regional areas 8.0% in Outer regional areas 1.1% in Remote areas 0.8% in Very remote areas (ABS 2022c).


Case Study Summary: A 1999 case study published in the 5th Rural Health Conference in South Australia provides some important facts about the state of health and wellbeing in rural SA at the time of conducting the research study. Titled "The Role of Families in Promoting Rural Health: A Case Study of Contrasting Rural Communities" almost 120 families in four contrasting rural communities participated in the project. The research project was conducted in an attempt to address the lack of empirical data on the role of the family in maintaining and promoting the health of rural Australians.

Families reported many illnesses for which they accessed some health service during the period of study. Access issues aside, families sought assistance from a wide range of health professionals, including health workers dealing with disease prevention, (such as immunisation), early detection (such as dental checks), health maintenance (such as chiropractic care), monitoring chronic health problems (such as asthma) and treatment from doctors for a range of acute illnesses. Given that many of these services are not available locally, families are required to travel significant distances to access them.

In the initial survey, participants considered a healthy family to be one that is both mentally and physically well and subject to minimal stress. Socialising with family and friends and physical exercise appeared to be the strategies most commonly used by families to reduce stress.

For all participants, eating well, family support and exercise were identified in the survey as the most important priorities in promoting health. However, analysis of the data recorded in diary entries showed that while families engaged in an enormous variety of health-promoting activities associated with exercise, there was significantly less mention of ‘healthy eating’ and nutrition.

Health promotion: The three smaller communities traditionally have had very little in the way of a comprehensive health promotion program, with the local health services concentrating largely on meeting the curative care needs of residents. As a result of their involvement in data collection over four months and their association and discussions with other participants in the study, families are now actively considering what activities promote good health.

Here are some of the key reasons why health promotion is particularly important in remote communities:

1. Preventing and managing chronic diseases: Remote communities often have higher rates of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, compared to urban areas. Health promotion programs can help prevent and manage these conditions by educating community members about healthy eating, physical activity, and self-care practices.

2. Reducing health disparities: People living in remote communities often face significant health disparities due to factors such as poverty, limited access to healthcare, and cultural and linguistic barriers. Health promotion programs can help address these disparities by providing culturally appropriate health education and services that meet the unique needs of the community.

3. Strengthening community resilience: Health promotion programs can help build community resilience by promoting social connections, increasing community engagement, and empowering individuals to take control of their health. This can help improve overall community health and well-being.

4. Improving access to healthcare: Health promotion programs can also help improve access to healthcare services in remote communities by increasing awareness of available resources, promoting preventive care, and encouraging individuals to seek medical attention when needed.

5. Community engagement: Health promotion programs can engage communities in taking ownership of their health and wellbeing. When community members are involved in the planning and implementation of health promotion programs, they are more likely to participate and adopt healthy behaviours.

Overall, health promotion in its all forms, be it campaigns, preventive interventions, policy and research projects or infrastructure, environment and facilities investments, is crucial in remote and urban communities to improve health outcomes, reduce health disparities, improve life satisfaction and promote community resilience. By empowering individuals to take control of their health and well-being, health promotion programs can help create healthier, more vibrant communities.

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