Exploring how to sustain 'place-based' rural health academic research for informing rural health systems: a qualitative investigation

O'Sullivan, Belinda, Cairns, Alice, and Gurney, Tiana (2020) Exploring how to sustain 'place-based' rural health academic research for informing rural health systems: a qualitative investigation. Health Research Policy and Systems, 18. 90.

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Background: The field of rural health research is critical for informing health improvement in rural places but it involves researching in small teams and distributed sites that may have specific sustainability challenges. We aimed to evaluate this to inform how to sustain the field of rural health research.

Methods: We conducted In-depth semi-structured interviews of 50-70 minutes with 17 rural early career researchers who were from different research sites across rural Australia. Data were thematically coded.

Results: Seven sustainability challenges were noted, namely recognition, workload, networks, funding and strategic grants, organisational culture, job security, and career progression options. Rural researchers were poorly recognised for their work and researchers were not extended the same opportunities enjoyed by staff at main campuses. Unpredictable and high workloads stemmed from community demand and limited staff. Strategic grant opportunities failed to target the generalist, complex research in this field and the limited time researchers had for grant writing due to their demands within small academic teams. Limited collaboration with other sites increased dissatisfaction. In the face of strong commitment to rural 'places' and their enthusiasm for improving rural health, fixed-term contracts and limited career progression options were problematic for researchers and their families in continuing in these roles.

Conclusion: A comprehensive set of strategies is needed to address the sustainability of this field, recognising its value for rural self-determination and health equity. Hubs and networks could enable more cohesively planned, collaborative research, skills sharing, senior academic supervision and career development. Targeted funding, fit to the context and purpose of this field, is urgent. Inaction may fuel regular turnover, starting after a researcher's first years, losing rich academic theoretical and contextual knowledge that is essential to address the health of rural populations.

Item ID: 64335
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1478-4505
Keywords: rural health research, place-based, capacity-building, sustainability, turnover
Copyright Information: © The Author(s). 2020. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License,which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.
Funders: Australian Government
Projects and Grants: Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training
Date Deposited: 09 Sep 2020 07:35
FoR Codes: 42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4203 Health services and systems > 420399 Health services and systems not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9202 Health and Support Services > 920299 Health and Support Services not elsewhere classified @ 50%
93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9305 Education and Training Systems > 930503 Resourcing of Education and Training Systems @ 50%
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