Over 300 delegates arrived in Tamworth on Wednesday for a three day rural health conference that is looking to address regional issues, while also celebrating and sharing research success.
This is the first time that Tamworth has played host to the annual Rural Health and Research Congress, now in its seventh year, following Wagga Wagga hosting the event in 2017, and Armidale a few years before.
The theme for the 2018 congress is ‘Beyond Distance and Diagnosis’, with a particular focus on closing the gap not only on health between residents of regional and metro Australia, but also to Indigenous health and outcomes.
The opening day saw a morning packed with five workshops, including a trip to the local Gomeroi gaaynggal Centre, before registrations and the congress itself kicked off at the Town Hall from 1pm.
Following a welcome from Len Waters, and opening addresses from Hunter Health CEO Michael DiRienzo, Parliamentary Secretary Leslie Williams and the Health Education and Training Institute’s Prof Annette Solman, a local took the floor for the first guest lecture.
Fiona Coote is well known for being Australia’s youngest and longest living heart transplant patient, although on Wednesday she was speaking on behalf of others, in her role as board member of Beyond Blue.
She spoke of the alarming gap between city and country services, as well as the need for more consideration of mental health issues.
“It is important that political people don’t forget that there is quite a gap in what is available to people in regional Australia,” she said.
“Only 3.5 per cent of all psychiatric specialists are in rural Australia.
“While the data will take a while to come in there is a fairly high demand of services from Beyond Blue, and a higher incidence of people needing help.”
Congress coordinator Catherine Helps said the congress aims to bring world class speakers, information, workshops and networking opportunities to people who work in a rural area.
One of the highlights of the conference will be former Sudanese child soldier turned Australian lawyer and human rights advocate Deng Adut, who will be speaking on Thursday morning.
Futurist and biomedical engineer Dr Jordan Nguyen will also be wowing the crowd with technological possibilities in his talk Beyond Superhumans.