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Health outcomes in rural communities may be worse than previously thought

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University of Otago and Waikato The university’s joint project to reclassify rural areas in the context of health will provide more accurate data on differences in health outcomes between rural and urban areas.

The study, “Defining the countryside of Aotearoa, New Zealand: a new geographic classification for health purposes,” was published today in The New Zealand Medical Journal , says that rural areas in the health context of New Zealand are so far poorly classified – in It has been classified in more than 30 different ways in the health literature over the past 20 years – yielding confusing and potentially inaccurate evidence on rural health.

University of Waikato researcher Dr Jesse Whitehead says the newly developed five-level Geographical Classification of Health (GCH) addresses long-standing Concerns about the way health outcomes are measured in rural New Zealand.

“How rural is defined is important for policy, service delivery and the communities living in rural areas,” he said.

GCH is technically robust, using the same building blocks and methodology y as Stats NZ classifications, but used to create different categories The population and travel time frame takes health into account, and importantly it was revised based on feedback from rural health workers, he said.

Gary Nixon, associate professor in the Department of General Practice and Rural Health at the University of Otago, said the population identified by the GCH as rural ” Surprisingly different from the rural population identified by Stats NZ’s old or new classification as rural. There is less overlap than we expected.”

There is some early evidence that GCH rural populations have different health outcomes. When applied to the national mortality collection, GCH showed that unadjusted mortality was 21% higher in rural areas than in urban areas—a difference not shown in the general classification.

“Inaccurate groupings appear to mask real differences in health outcomes between rural and urban communities,” he said.

“Currently, analyses of rural health outcomes typically treat those in urban commuter zones as rural.

“This means that relatively good health outcomes in some of the country’s wealthiest communities overshadow the reality of poorer outcomes in many rural and remote areas. “

Associate Professor Nixon said the GCH will provide a clearer picture of the health of New Zealanders in rural areas, which may eventually lead to Improving rural health care.

“Our classification produces data that may challenge previous conclusions, and in the process of doing so , to drive a national rural health strategy and policy – something New Zealand has so far lacked. “

The development of GCH is the first component of a New Zealand Health Research Council funded project.

The second phase will determine whether urban-rural disparities were previously masked by the common classification by analyzing the range of health outcomes by rural.

“The GCH will be a useful tool in our research and those of others to examine a range of health outcomes and rural-urban disparities in access to care. ”

Further information: Jesse Whitehead et al., Defining the countryside of Aotearoa, New Zealand: A new geography of health Classification, New Zealand Medical Journal (2022).… -for-health-purposes

Citation : Health outcomes in rural communities may be worse than previously thought (2022 August 5, 2022), retrieved August 24, 2022 from

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