Another busy and fruitful year @RuralWONCA

Photo: The Rural Cafe at the 14th World Rural Health Conference in Cairns, Australia April 2017.

Dr John Wynn-Jones, Chair of RuralWONCA (WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice) summarises the annual report of the Working Party.

Every year we produce an annual report for WONCA executive and I thought that it would be useful to share some of the topics with you all in Rural Roundup.

It has been particularly busy year with two conferences within six months; at the World WONCA Conference in Rio de Janeiro (November 2016) and at our own 14th WONCA World Rural Health Conference in Cairns Australia (April 2017). Both were highly successful and it was valuable for our council to meet on both occasions. I would like to take the opportunity to thank the hosts; the Brazilian Society of Family Medicine and The Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) for their wonderful support and organisation during both conferences.

Some of the most important themes addressed during the 12-month period were:

• Equity and relevance: Equitable representation remains our most important guiding theme. We have made significant advances in gender, generational, geographical and demographic equity issues but much still needs to be done. The greatest challenge remains representation from the poorest and most inaccessible parts of the world. We also strive to ensure that our work and actions are as relevant to the needs of working rural family doctors as they are to academic institutions and professional bodies.

• Shaping the rural health workforce: Our involvement and close working relationship with the Rural Generalist Movement is crucial to the need to develop a medical workforce that is relevant to and meets the needs of the rural populations that these workforces serve. The principles of the Rural Generalist Movement are relevant and applicable worldwide but its delivery will be country specific and dependant on local resources, health systems and culture. We welcome the final report from the 3rd Rural Generalist Summit (held prior to the 14th WONCA World Rural Health Conference) where we had a significant role and look forward to working with the authors to deliver its goals. We are also aim to run panel sessions at the World Health Organisation’s 4th Global Forum on Human Resources for Health in Dublin (November 2017). We intend to highlight rural workforce issues and promote good practice and evidenced based solutions.

• Values of the group:
It was decided to produce a values statement to stress and state our values as on organisation. We hope that this will guide current and more importantly future members. We are grateful to the Rural Doctors Association of South Africa for their help. The statement is currently being finalised and will be submitted for approval to WONCA Executive shortly.

• Young rural doctors and medical students: The future of rural practice lies in their hands and it is our responsibility to work closely with the next generation of rural activists. RuralWONCA has established in partnership with some exceptional students, young doctors and Young Doctor Movements, a new global network called Rural Seeds. If you a young rural doctor or a medical student who is keen to work in a rural setting please look at our facebook page and think about joining us  here.

• Working in partnership: As rural is a cross cutting theme and the work of all WONCA’s Working Parties and SIGs are relevant to rural healthcare, we try to forge valuable partnerships with other groups in WONCA. The same can be said for working with other NGOs and organisations outside WONCA. Strong relationships have been formed with WHO, The Network Towards Unity for Health, National Rural Health Association (USA) etc.

• New structure to RuralWONCA: Details of the proposed changes were included in last year’s report. We have opted to continue to work to a 3-year work programme. The council has adapted well to the change and we are working to develop a sustainable model for the assembly meetings.

• Work plan: We met all our targets for the last 3-year work plan (2013-2016) and we have set ourselves an ambitious programme for the current three years. We are nine months into the new plan and hope to receive progress reports for all the portfolio holders at the end of the year.

• Networks: It is our ambition that all the WONCA regions will have local rural regional networks. Current networks in Europe (EURIPA), South America (CIMF Rural) and South Asia (WoRSA) appear to be working well. We are delighted to announce the formation of an Africa Network (WoRA) and wish it good fortune. Special thanks to our African colleagues. We are also hoping to establish an Asia Pacific network and colleagues from WoRSA and Asia Pacific countries will be holding a workshop at the next regional conference in Thailand.

You can find out more about our activities on our webpage and also on our WONCA Resource page. We have much to do still and we need your support to do it. We are grateful for the help from WONCA Executive and the secretariat and feel that we are on course to meet our goals for the current triennium. We would not however be able to achieve anything without the hard work and dedication of our members who give me up precious time to spread the Global Rural Health message around the world.

Finally, I would like to thank Karen Flegg (editor of WONCA News and WONCA Executive Member) for the opportunity to run Rural Roundup on a monthly basis and for occasionally having to chase us up!

Dr John Wynn-Jones
RuralWONCA (WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice)