heart health

NEW RFDS RESEARCH finds higher bush cardiac deaths are preventable

The latest Flying Doctor research paper, released Wednesday 29th May, titled Cardiovascular health in remote and rural communities, 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.

Seven million Australians live in remote and rural Australia. On average, these seven million Australians have poorer health outcomes and live shorter lives than city residents. 

  • The premature death rate is 1.6 times higher in remote Australia than in city areas.
  • The percentage of people in remote areas with arthritis, asthma, deafness, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease is higher than in cities. 
  • Health behaviours of people in country areas are less conducive to good health than people in cities, with higher rates of smoking,obesity, and alcohol misuse in remote areas than in cities. 

While there is ample evidence on the health access and outcome disparity between city and country Australia, there has been little information about how country people themselves see these disparities. In response, the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) joined with the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) in 2017 to assess the health needs of remote and rural Australians and to give voice to country Australians.

Graphic: New research paper

'Bush Needs' Survey

The RFDS research team, in collaboration with the NFF, and the CWA, surveyed over 450 country people, drawn from every state and territory. The survey sought to determine remote and rural Australians: 

  • Opinions on the most important health issues impacting their communities
  • Areas of health that they believe money should be spent on to improve health outcomes 
  • Access to health services for urgent and non-urgent health problems
  • Use of RFDS health services
  • Health status 

A vast amount of demographic data was also collected. The current paper reports the results of the survey and discusses the results; 

Walk and talk

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.

RFDS CEO Martin Laverty said "One in five Australians experience a mental disorder each year. Yet country people can't access the same services as people in the city."

"There's no difference in prevalence of mental illness between city and bush. Yet Flying Doctor research reveals dramatic differences in how sick people become. Poor service access, distance, cost, and continued reluctance to seek help all contribute to higher mental illness acuity."

Royal Flying Doctor Research Publications

Health Care Access, Mental Health, and Preventative Health; Health Priority Survey Findings for People in the Bush


Mental Health in Rural and Remote Communities

Providing Aeromedical care to Remote Indigenous Communities

Providing Aeromedical care to Remote Indigenous Communities

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Responding to Injuries in remote and rural Australia

Responding to Injuries in remote and rural Australia

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Filling the Gap: Disparities in oral health access and outcomes

Filling the Gap: Disparities in oral health access and outcomes

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3rd Party Research publications

The Centre for International Economics report March 2015

The Centre for International Economics report March 2015

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Strong Fathers, Strong Families - A preliminary report Nth Qld

Strong Fathers, Strong Families - A preliminary report Nth Qld

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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.

Clinical Research

Clinical Research

The Research and Policy Unit hosts the Royal Flying Doctor Service's Clinical and Health Services Research Committee. You can find details on the composition of the committee here.

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Rural and remote

Defining Rural and Remote

Royal Flying Doctor research is specifically pertinent and related to rural and remote Australia, so it is vital that we define what these terms actually mean.

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Research staff

Research and Policy Unit staff

The RFDS research is conducted by a small team in Canberra, ACT. Here are details on the composition, skills and experience of our team.

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