About Australia's rural health workforce

Around 1 in 4 Australians lives in a rural or regional area. We work to distribute the health workforce according to community need and encourage health professionals to train and practise in rural and remote areas.

What we mean by rural health

We treat all areas outside of major cities as regional and rural areas. About 7 million people (29% of the population) live in regional and rural Australia.

We use workforce classification systems to:

  • define how rural or remote an area is
  • decide how to distribute doctors and meet everyone’s medical needs, no matter where they live.

Status of rural health in Australia

People in regional, rural and remote areas generally face challenges accessing health care. Compared with those in metropolitan areas, people living in rural areas have:

  • shorter lives
  • higher levels of disease and injury
  • poorer access to and use of health services.

This is often due to difficulty accessing health services. Lifestyle differences, along with disadvantage related to education and employment opportunities, also contribute.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) publishes reports on rural and remote health.

Australia's rural health workforce

Generally, the more remote a place is, the fewer health professionals work there. But the distribution across remoteness areas differs with the profession.

For example, AIHW data shows that remote areas have:

  • 7 times fewer specialists compared with major cities
  • relatively more nurses compared with all the other areas.

You can use our health workforce data tool to find information on numbers of health professionals working in different remoteness areas.

Better access to healthcare services leads to better health outcomes. Better access comes when the health workforce is distributed according to community need.

To achieve this, we have set up incentives for health professionals to train and practise in rural and remote areas.

Last updated: 
14 December 2021

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