13 Mar 2015

Rural health conference opens today

6:37 am on 13 March 2015

More than 350 doctors, nurses, medical students and leaders in rural communities are expected to attend the first National Rural Health Conference in Rotorua today.

 Doctor with a stethoscope writing on a clipboard.

Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The Rural General Practice Network and the Rural Health Alliance are teaming up to run the conference over the next two days.

Opotiki GP Dr Jo Scott-Jones, who chairs both bodies, said the conference gives people working in remote places the chance to discuss and share ideas about the health problems rural communities face.

He said suicide prevention, reducing violence and workforce training problems in rural areas are among some of the key topics being examined.

"Mental health issues are a big problem in rural communities, and we'll have a number of presentations talking about that, as well as practical things for rural health professionals across professions so nursing, pharmacy, medicine, looking at things like gout, sleeping disorders, kidney disease, you know those sorts of things that we all deal with.

"One focus is around the sustainability of rural communities themselves.

"We know that the economic health of rural communities is really important for the health of the people living and working within them and so we're going to be thinking about how we can enhance and sustain the economic development of rural communities."

Health Minister Jonathon Coleman and the 2014 New Zealander of the Year, Dr Lance O'Sullivan, a Northland-based rural doctor, are speaking at the conference, as are international rural health professionals.

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