The Global Financial Crisis, Climate Change and Rural Child Health: Where to for Rural Health Policy? (pp. 521-533)
Authors: Erica Bell
Abstract: Much evidence exists to suggest that health is strongly influenced by socio-economic factors, but also climate change. This policy discussion paper aims to explore the interacting effects of the global financial crisis (GFC) and climate change on the health of children in rural Australia. Strong evidence is emerging that the GFC will continue to have major economic effects in rural Australia. These economic effects will in turn impact on vulnerable groups such as rural children. Indigenous children may be particularly affected, but the GFC may also interact with climate change to create new groups of disadvantage amoung rural children. Prevention programs are at risk as is the viability of many non government organisations working to achieve better health for rural children. Declining rural neighbourhoods may also affect health, as will changing patterns of healthcare utilisation. The conclusions emphasise five key directions for the rural health sector: 1) helping ensure that there is support for local community responses including through local councils; 2) ensuring that the three pillars of the government’s policy response to the GFC (infrastructure, education and business development) do not create silos that exclude health, a task requiring the rural health sector to be visible at economic reform discussions and in economic policy development; 3) insisting on reform of Australia’s scant health service research agenda; 4) however uncomfortable, questioning the values that have led to unhealthy outcomes for rural communities and 5) developing an explicit rural health policy with sentinel indicators agreed on at state and federal levels.