Details of Publication 333 for Project A134:

Young A & Dolja-Gore X. Access to health services for mid-aged women in rural Australia: evidence of improvement? , 2007; :

There have been several government initiatives in recent years aimed at improving access to health care services for people living in rural and remote areas of Australia. The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health provides an opportunity to examine whether there is evidence of an improvement in access to health services. Survey data covering a range of health, social and demographic factors have been collected since 1996 from a random sample of more than 40 000 women across Australia in three age groups. More than half of the women surveyed live in rural areas. The focus of this paper is the cohort of mid-age women in the study, who were aged 47–52 years at Survey 2 in 1998, 50–55 years at Survey 3 in 2001 and 53–58 years by Survey 4 in 2004. Among other matters, the study examined self-reported access to a range of services including hospitals, specialists, after-hours care, female GPs and bulk billed Medicare services. To ensure comparability over time, only women who resided in the same remoteness classification for the whole six-year period were included in the analysis.The analysis included data for 2935 mid-age women living in ‘Major Cities’ of Australia, 3331 women in ‘Inner Regional’ areas, 1675 women in ‘Outer Regional’ areas and 307 women in ‘Remote/Very Remote’ areas. As expected, for all types of health services, the women in more remote areas returned lower ratings of their access to services than women in Major Cities and Inner Regional areas. However there were some improvements in access to services for non-urban women over the six-year period. For example, the percentage of women in Outer Regional areas who rated their access to a female GP as “excellent”, “very good” or “good” rose from 52% in 1998 to 58% in 2004 (whereas the percentage for women in Major Cities remained stable at 73%). Access to a GP who bulk bills fell in Major Cities over the six-year period (71% to 44%) but remained relatively stable, although lower, in Remote areas (43% to 39%). The longitudinal study is well placed to monitor the effectiveness of new programs aimed at improving the access to health care services of women living in regional and remote areas of Australia.