Making Rural Health Matter

JCU: Making Rural Health Matter
With an oversupply of doctors in major cities, JCU is training a fit-for-purpose regional medical workforce to fill the gap. We believe that, no matter where you are in Australia, everyone deserves a doctor. Find out about how we are making a difference to regional, rural and remote communities.

James Cook University is making a difference in the lives of Australians in regional, rural, remote and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.  Its unique approach to training a fit for purpose health workforce has made it Australia’s most successful university in producing doctors, dentists and pharmacists who train in and go on to live and work in these communities. Find out more on graduate outcomes, JCU experience and workforce.

The College of Medicine and Dentistry is committed to recruiting regional, rural, Indigenous and values-aligned students. It delivers wholly regionally-based education and training with a focus on priority community needs.  JCU’s future doctors, dentists and pharmacists train in regional, rural and remote Queensland and are more likely to work in these areas upon graduation.

People who live in regional, rural and remote areas have poorer health than their metropolitan counterparts and also suffer from poorer access to health care.  The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has found those living outside major centres have higher reported rates of chronic diseases, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.  They have higher incidence of low birth weight babies and poorer ante and post-natal health.  There’s also a greater prevalence of mental health problems. Australia has plenty of doctors, but most are working in metropolitan areas, with 4.3 doctors per thousand people in the cities, compared to just 2.7 doctors per thousand in rural and remote areas.

JCU is committed to addressing this problem by developing a skilled, fit for purpose health workforce in and for regional, rural and remote Australia.  The College is focused on providing regional training pathways to fulfilling health careers. From regionally focused undergraduate programs in medicine, dentistry and pharmacy to postgraduate specialist General Practice training.

As part of its unique approach, JCU deliberately recruits students from rural, regional and remote areas, or those who have an interest in working in these regions.  71% of the 2019 Medicine cohort is from non-metropolitan areas.  Students across all the disciplines undertake clinical placements in regional, rural and remote communities.  75% of JCU Medical Graduates between 2005-2016 have worked a year or more in regional rural or remote locations.  In its almost 20 year history, JCU has produced more than 900 doctors who have gone on to work in regional, rural and remote communities.

JCU’s GP Training program builds on the success of these foundations, forging links between undergraduate and postgraduate training.  Under the program, graduate doctors can undertake specialist GP Training across regional Queensland.  The program has achieved remarkable results since it started in 2016, producing more than 400 GPs who have gone on to work in regional, rural and remote Australia.

JCU Dentistry is a leader in health equality, making an impact in regional, rural, remote and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.  The Dentistry program explores issues of concern to northern Australia, particularly relating to tropical, rural and Indigenous practice.

The College is also working to build the pharmacy workforce outside metropolitan Queensland, through its highly regarded Pharmacy degree.  We are the top ranking university in Australia for overall course satisfaction and for learner engagements, students support and teaching quality in Pharmacy (QILT, 2017-2018).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to suffer poorer health outcomes than non-Indigenous Australians.  While there have been improvements in some areas of health, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to have a lower life expectancy than non-Indigenous Australians and are at least twice as likely to rate their health as fair or poor.  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are almost twice as likely to suffer from low birth weight and are more than twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday as non-Indigenous Australians.

James Cook University is working with communities to address the disparity in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians with a key focus on improving the provision of culturally appropriate clinical practice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Through the right education experience, JCU is ensuring that we deliver health professionals that are well equipped to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to improve the overall health of their communities.

This is being achieved by embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health in the curriculum across the disciplines, particularly in its General Practice Training program.  JCU GP Training provides a range of training opportunities and resources for registrars to develop a higher level of cultural and clinical competence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.  The University is also working to increase the capacity of training posts in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to train registrars and aims to increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander registrars and those who want to work in the area of Indigenous health.

JCU also has a focus on recruiting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students into the health disciplines, with tertiary pathways aimed specifically at assisting students from Indigenous backgrounds into health courses.