A literature review was undertaken exploring two areas: the policy context for the two Programs and what is known about developing effective health workforce strategies for improving rural health services, with a specific focus on education and training initiatives.

Material for this review was based on a search of peer-reviewed journals using Proquest Health and Medline complete, Ovid Medline and RURAL databases, as well as supplementary searches through the CINAHL database in relation to international literature. Keywords utilised included combinations and derivatives of:

  • rural clinical schools;
  • department of rural health;
  • rural, regional, remote;
  • health workforce;
  • medical workforce;
  • dentistry workforce;
  • recruitment; and
  • retention.
After an initial search, additional material was identified through review of citations contained in selected articles and publications.

Primary inclusion criteria were relevance to the research questions, quality and depth of research and relevance to the Australian context. Where available, systematic reviews were preferred, then other reviews, controlled trials or evaluative studies, followed by other types of research, including smaller studies without controls, evaluative case studies, and expert opinion (e.g. editorial).

A Google search using similar keywords supplemented the peer-reviewed journal searches, as well as specific website searches for each RCS and UDRH, and other relevant sites including rural workforce agencies, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, and government websites relating to the research question. The Department of Health and Ageing's Report on the audit of health workforce in rural and regional Australia (2008a) was a key resource for information on workforce distribution. Generally, material from these sources provided context for the literature review.

The evaluation also included a component of desk-based research, such as the analysis of annual reports and data from the Department on the activities of each institution; grey literature and articles provided by each site; and relevant press releases, budget announcements or developments in the rural health workforce which arose during the period of the evaluation.