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Scientific/Medical Question 23
What are some viable solutions to the shortage of healthcare professionals in rural areas?
The health of those in rural areas is generally worse than that of those in urban areas and linked to increased poverty rates. The shortage of healthcare professionals is one of many issues affecting rural areas, such that the WHO set up its International Development Programme to bring about change to rural areas, focusing on resources, opportunities, education and health.
Even in countries where most people live rurally, healthcare remains focused in cities.
The first step toward encouraging more rural healthcare workers is reaching out to community colleges and schools, to encourage those from rural areas to enter healthcare. Studies have shown that come from these areas are more likely to return to them. Universities should ensure placements are readily available in rural areas for their medical and healthcare students. Indeed, a ‘rural’ rotation would emphasise the importance of family health.
The positives of working rurally should be spelled out (i.e. in workshops and lectures) to medical and health students, and those in early training - lower cost of living, proximity to cities without associated costs, a better space to raise children, and an abundance of leisure activities.
‘Golden handshakes’ are currently offered for some rural positions, but are likely more of a short term fix than long term solution. Ensuring the NHS emphasises the importance of equivalent wages for those in primary and secondary care would perhaps be more helpful.