National Rural Health Alliance
The National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA) is Australia’s peak non-government organisation for rural and remote health. The Alliance began in 1991 and was incorporated in 1993. It brings together a number of disparate organisations for the common purpose of improving the health of people who live and work in Australia’s country areas.
The Alliance now comprises 33 Member Bodies, each of which is a national organisation. They represent health consumers, health care professionals, service providers, health educators, students and some Indigenous health organisations.
The Australian Paediatric Society represents rural child health on the NRHA.
Although its work involves advocacy to Australia’s governments, the Alliance has core operational support from the Australian (Federal) Government’s Department of Health and Ageing. The Alliance’s work has remained independent of government and is controlled and managed by its member bodies, through Council of the NRHA.
The Alliance collects and disseminates information, determines key issues that affect health and wellbeing in rural and remote areas, and provides broad views on rural health matters to governments, educational and research institutions, and other professional bodies.
The Alliance’s interests and constituency are the communities of rural and remote Australia. Because of the great distances involved in rural and remote Australia, and despite its general affluence, the health status of its people deteriorates with increasing remoteness (i.e. distance from its capital cities). The proportion of Indigenous (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) people in local communities increases with increasing remoteness and this also contributes to the urban-remote health gradient. Across Australia as a whole there is a 12-17 year difference in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Between remote and metropolitan areas as a whole the difference is estimated to be 3–4 years.
Against this background, the Alliance’s vision is good health and well being in rural and remote Australia. The Alliance takes a broad view of health and a long-term view of the development of rural Australia. Its operation is based on the view that all Australians, wherever they live, should have access to comprehensive, high quality health services and the opportunity for equivalent health outcomes. This involves the social and economic determinants of health as well as factors in the health sector more narrowly defined.
These broader issues include rural and regional development, telecommunications, transport, cultural safety, illness prevention and education, as well as health infrastructure. The Alliance aims to work with consumers, communities and governments to make the diverse communities of rural and remote Australia healthy and health-promoting places in which to live and work.