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Rural Remote Health. 2006 Apr-Jun;6(2):540. Epub 2006 May 2.

Making it Work 2: using a virtual community to focus on rural health issues.

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Centre for Rural Health, University of Aberdeen, The Green House, Inverness, Scotland.


Between 21 and 23 September 2005, over 200 delegates from eight countries gathered in Tromsö, within the Arctic Circle, to discuss challenges and solutions to rural health issues. This conference was a sequel to a previous event entitled 'Making it Work', held in Scotland in 2003, in which it was identified that service delivery in remote and rural areas needed to be innovative to ensure equity. A major aim of this event was to move the debate forward to describe specific examples of practice that could be adopted in participating countries. The delegates included clinicians, managers and administrators, senior policymakers and educationalists, elected local and national politicians, patients and their representatives. In order to focus debate, the organisers provided an outline of a virtual remote community ('Hope'), including some geographic and demographic information, together with four case studies of individual health problems faced by residents of the community. During the introductory session, a short film was shown featuring the 'residents' of this community, introducing delegates to the specific problems they faced. Throughout the conference, delegates were asked to reflect back to how any recommendations made might apply to the citizens of Hope. The clinical scenarios presented included: (1) a 37 year old pregnant woman in labour during adverse weather conditions; (2) a 17 year old island resident with acute psychosis who attempts suicide; (3) an 80 year old woman living alone who suffers a stroke; and (4) a family of four with a complex range of chronic health issues including smoking, alcoholism, diabetes, teenage pregnancy, asthma and depression on a background of deprivation and unemployment. Parallel discussions and workshops focussed on a number of key themes linked to the examples highlighted in the 'Hope' scenario. These included: maternity services; mental health; chronic disease management; health improvement and illness prevention; supporting healthy rural communities; and education for rural health staff. This approach to targeting discussion is valuable in rural health conferences where the participants may be from diverse backgrounds and the issues discussed are multi-faceted.

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