Best for the Bush
comparison of spend city versus bush

Presenting the latest data on the health of rural and remote Australians, alongside RFDS aeromedical retrieval data and evidence on service gaps, the RFDS Best for the Bush report series identifies the issues that most urgently need attention from service providers, funders and policy makers, while also making recommendations for the RFDS to pursue together with governments, industry, rural and remote communities.

Our first in the RFDS signature research series was released in February 2023 - called Best for the Bush Health Base Line 2022The second baseline report was issued on 27 March 2024 - called Best for the Bush Health Baseline 2023.



This report again demonstrates significantly poorer health outcomes and more limited access to primary health services in rural and remote Australia.  

This results in people from these areas getting sicker and requiring more urgent attention. As compared with those in major cities, the report details that rural and remote residents are;

“Our postcode should be what determines access to health services”, says Frank Quinlan, Federation Executive Director of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. 



The leading causes for death in Australia, by remoteness are heart disease. People living in remote areas are 1.4X more likely to die from lung cancer and in very remote areas, 1.6X more likely.

Heart disease and diabetes can be prevented through effective primary healthcare. Lung cancer and other cancers can be detected (and then treated) through screening services. 

Unless more comprehensive primary healthcare services are expanded into rural and remote areas, people in these communities will continue to experience higher levels of illness, avoidable hospitalisation, and earlier death.



Almost 60% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians live in rural or remote Areas of Australia and there is not only a gap in life expectancy between Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians of up to 12.5 years that increases with increasing remoteness, but there is a further gap amongst Indigenous people depending on where they live.


On 9 August 2023 our second in our series, and first Best for the Bush In-Focus report has been released, entitled Best for the Bush InFocus Heart, Stroke and Vascular Disease. Copies of both reports are below.

“Working alongside government, service partners and communities, this Best for the Bush report is continuation of the RFDS’ long term commitment to delivering evidence-based healthcare in regional, rural and remote Australia”, said RFDS Federation Executive Director Frank Quinlan.

“This will only be achieved through accessible primary healthcare”.

Research Publications

Best for the Bush In-Focus report released

Best for the Bush In-Focus Report Released

09 Aug 2023

Today the Royal Flying Doctor Service is releasing our first Best for the Bush ‘In-Focus’ report, looking at heart, stroke, and vascular disease and the disproportional impacts on rural and remote Australia.

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RFDS releases Best for the Bush report

RFDS releases Best for the Bush report

08 Feb 2023

A new Royal Flying Doctor Service research report series, entitled Best for the Bush, Rural and Remote Health Base Line 2022, was recently released.

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Stroke Report

Improving stroke care in regional and rural Australia

13 May 2022

The RFDS Research and Policy Unit has just released a health education paper on the impact of stroke on people living in the bush.

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Broken Hill Mental Health team

Survey Highlights Importance of Understanding in Mental Health

09 Oct 2021

A new research report by the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) research team, in collaboration with the Australian Catholic University (ACU), found that a better understanding of mental health leads to better outcomes for individuals and the whole community.

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seeing the doctor

Equitable health access for all Australians

17 Dec 2020

As part of a submission to the Federal Government's Inquiry into Regional Australia, the RFDS has just released a new research paper entitled 'Equitable Patient Access to Primary Healthcare in Australia'.

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Cardiovascular Disease Prevention & Rehabilitation in Rural and Remote Populations

New RFDS research details how, cardiac rehabilitation services, if made available in the bush, could prevent as many as 80% of premature deaths from cardiac disease. One in five RFDS emergency flights are for heart attack and stroke. An average of 112 patients per-week are retrieved by the RFDS from country areas for heart treatment. Remote Australians are 1.6 times more likely to be hospitalised for coronary heart disease than people in major cities, and 1.3 times more likely to die.

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Hearing Australia Trial

Hearing loss affects some 3.6 million Australians and is predicted to more than double by 2060 in line with Australia’s ageing population. In 2017, hearing loss was estimated to affect one in seven people in Australia, including as many as three out of four people aged over 70 years.

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Looking Ahead: Responding to the Health Needs of Country Australia in 2028

RFDS research provides a health forecast for 2028, the centenary year of the RFDS. The report finds that while Australia’s remote population is forecast to grow only marginally in a decade, chronic illness will rise dramatically, with the burden of mental illness forecast to increase by a fifth, if action is not taken to halt current trends.

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Healthy Ageing in Rural and Remote Australia: Challenges to Overcome

RFDS research finds that thousands of remote Australians aged over 65 are flown by aeromedical teams to hospitals with illnesses that could have been prevented through increased country health services. The population of remote Australia is getting older, but the nation is yet to work out how to support people to age and stay in the bush. Neurological conditions of ageing - dementia and Alzheimer’s - will significantly increase within the bush in a decade.

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Cardiovascular health in remote and rural communities

RFDS Research found that remote Australians are 1.6 times more likely to be hospitalised for coronary heart disease than people in major cities, and 1.3 times more likely to die. It also found Indigenous Australians were 1.7 times more likely than non-Indigenous Australians to die from coronary heart disease.

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Mental Health in Rural and Remote Communities

Each year, around one in five, or 960,000, remote and rural Australians experience a mental disorder. The prevalence of mental disorders in remote and rural Australia is the same as that in major cities, making mental disorders one of the few illnesses that does not have higher prevalence rates in country Australia compared to city areas.

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Bush Needs Survey

Access to health care in the bush is paramount. Many people in rural, regional and remote communities across Australia continue to experience difficulty in accessing adequate medical care and health outreach programs. This study, gives a voice to our regional population, among many of which are farmers. Respondents identified core health areas that require more investment including: access to medical services; mental health; health promotion and prevention.

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Providing Aeromedical care to Remote Indigenous Communities

This research considers the health of Indigenous Australians living in remote and very remote areas and details illness and accident demand for aeromedical retrievals by the RFDS. Timely and accessible medical care is crucial for Indigenous Australians who have poorer health outcomes compared with non-Indigenous Australians. In addition to ensuring the provision of culturally appropriate primary health care and other health services for Indigenous Australians in these areas.

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Responding to Injuries in Rural and Remote Australia

This report shows that across almost every category of non-intentional and intentional injuries, incidence rates and associated death and morbidity are higher in remote and rural areas. In some parts of Australia the injury rate is almost double for remote residents compared with city residents. Access to timely medical care can influence patient outcomes following an injury. RFDS aeromedical teams are often tasked to retrieve patients who have suffered an injury and are in a remote location.

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Filling the Gap: Disparities in oral health access and outcomes

Residents of remote and rural Australia have poorer oral health than residents of major cities in Australia. While approximately one quarter of adults living in major cities have untreated tooth decay, prevalence increases as distance from a capital city rises, with more than one third of remote area residents living with untreated decay. Untreated tooth decay for Indigenous Australians is even higher, with more than half of Indigenous Australians having one or more teeth affected by decay.

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Research & Policy Unit

The Royal Flying Doctor Service's Research and Policy Unit was established in mid-2015. Its three purposes are to:

1) Voice and respond to health outcome and clinical service needs of country Australians, informed by RFDS clinical data and other sourced evidence;

2) Fulfil the Safety and Quality in Health Care standard requirement to be an organization driven by information;

3) Make publicly available RFDS clinical data and clinical research findings to contribute to public policy and clinical practice improvements.

The Research and Policy Unit can be contacted on 02 6269 5500 or by email.

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