La Trobe University: Experts meet to improve rural health

The first La Trobe Rural Health School conference held in person since the start of the pandemic will be opened by the Honourable Ged Kearney, MP – Federal Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care.

This year’s theme is New Frontiers in Rural Health, with research exploring diverse topics critical to rural and regional communities – from ageing, physical activity and COVID-19 to workforce shortages, mental health and cultural safety.

La Trobe Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Dewar AO said as Australia continues to face significant issues of health and social inequality, exacerbated by the pandemic, building research capacity and health workforce in rural and regional communities is more important than ever.

“We know that people in rural and regional areas have poorer health outcomes than those living in cities, but our Rural Health School – the largest Rural Health School in Australia – is working to meet these challenges through education, training and research,” Professor Dewar said.

“Our researchers are working in an incredibly diverse range of disciplines, creating real impact in areas such as healthcare access for vulnerable communities, future-proofing the midwifery workforce, mentoring First Nations youth, community paramedicine and building resilience to pandemics.”

Dean of the La Trobe Rural Health School, Professor Jane Mills, said the calibre of speakers and quality of research being presented at the two-day event was testament to La Trobe’s standing as a leader in rural and regional health.

“This year, the Violet Vines Marshman Oration will be delivered by the National Rural Health Commissioner, Professor Ruth Stewart, whose Office is driving innovation and supporting reforms to rural health,” Professor Mills said.

“The La Trobe Rural Health School is leading the way in terms of tackling the issues that affect rural and regional communities, and training the next generation of healthcare professionals at our world-class facilities.”

Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care the Hon. Ged Kearney MP said she was pleased to be in Bendigo to join researchers and health professionals at the Conference.

“We know regional health schools like the one at La Trobe University in Bendigo do so much heavy lifting when it comes to training the next generation of health professionals, and making sure that people in rural and regional communities receive the healthcare they need – all while also carrying out life-saving research,” Assistant Minister Kearney said.

The Rural Health Research Conference runs 14 – 15 July, with the Violet Vines Marshman Oration taking place on Thursday evening at the Flora Hill Campus in Bendigo.

Highlights of the two-day conference include:
The Judith Lumley Symposium, where La Trobe research into cultural safety in midwifery care for First Nations women, drink spiking, violence against women and health outcomes for socially disadvantaged women will be presented.
La Trobe Rural Health School COVID-19 research, including the relationship between fear of COVID-19 and depression, student resilience during a pandemic, and a longitudinal study on the effects of COVID-19 healthcare workers in the Loddon Mallee region.
Keynote speakers, Professor Sabina Knight AM – a key figure in the development of rural and remote health workforce policy and health reform, and La Trobe’s Associate Professor Mark McEvoy – lead investigator of the Loddon Mallee Healthcare Worker COVID Study.
An important part of the conference is Thursday’s Violet Vines Marshman Oration, which takes its name from Victorian nurse Violet Vines Marshman, who devoted much of her life to improving the health and wellbeing of people living in regional and rural Australia.
The Violet Vines Marshman Centre for Rural Health Research was established at La Trobe in 2018 through a bequest from VV Marshman’s charitable trust, and is undertaking world-class studies aimed at narrowing the gulf between metropolitan health outcomes and those in regional, rural and remote areas.