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Health And Welfare Remote And rural Areas Resource Initiative (RARARI)

International Conference Heralds a New Rural Health Network 16 September 03

Conference delegates attending the "Making it Work" Conference in St Andrews, last week, overwhelmingly called for permanent voice for rural health issues and a continuation of the work of the Remote and Rural Areas Resource Initiative (RARARI), with international dimensions.

Around 300 delegates from Norway, Australia, Russia, Canada, USA and Scotland gathered for the first International Conference in Scotland focussing on Remote and Rural Health. It was a joint venture between RARARI and the Northern Norway Regional Health Authority (Helse Nord),  based on close links which have been forged over the past few years through sharing similar healthcare challenges. 

Key themes, which emerged from the conference were:
* The importance of education and training for sustainability
* The need for appropriate measurement of quality and standards
* The value of community ownership and honest open dialogue with the public
* The need for support networks for all professionals

Mac Armstrong, Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, described the modern challenges for delivering rural healthcare and the need to tackle these.  He said;  "The threats to health and challenges to health care, which are common to every health system, are even more acutely felt in rural economies. In rural areas, overcoming poverty and social exclusion, meeting the needs of an ageing population, the changing expectations of public and professionals and the demands of new technology are especially challenging and require new thinking.  Sharing our experience with others will help us find innovative solutions to the problems of rural health in Scotland."

Conference delegates made it clear that they see a continuing need for a co-ordinated movement to improve the health and promote the health care needs of rural communities. The new Rural Health Network will be set up by April 2004.  Detailed plans will be drawn up by the key stakeholders who attended the conference, including RARARI, NHS Boards, health professionals and service users, the Scottish Executive and international partners.

Jim Royan, Chair of NHS Grampian and RARARI Steering Group member, chaired the conference.  He vowed to take forward the views of the delegates and announced;
"This is the first wave of a movement with global dimensions. From the first of April 2004  there will be a rural health network."