From April 3rd to 5th 2014 the beautiful city of Gramado in Brazil welcomed physicians from different parts of the world to discuss a difficult and full of challenges reality: Rural Healthcare. The 12th World Rural health Conference was organized by the WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice (WWPRP), a component of the World Organization of Family Doctors (WONCA), and IFMSA partner.
Rural health care, defined as health care services for residents in rural and remote areas, is essential to improve accessibility to health. However, the reality of health in those areas is becoming even more neglected by our health leaders. The problems of rural health represent an “emerging need” that has to be tackled as a global health issue. During the event different kind of strategies were discussed in order to guarantee the access to health services in rural territories, considering all challenges that the world is facing right now to reach those areas with such a lack of human resources, materials and access. In the debates medical school role was included as well, in specific how the rural health can be included in the basic curriculum.
Arthur Mello (center of photograph) Regional Assistant for the Americas was selected as IFMSA representative and he was invited to be part of the WWPRP meeting, a pre-event where the party was discussing aspects regarding WONCA organization, and prospects for the next years in the field of family medicine, primary care and rural health.
“We need medical students energy to keep WONCA growing around the world”, those were the words Dr. John Wynn-Jones used when Arthur finished the presentation “Medical Students in Primary Health Care – Opportunities and Prospects”. The presentation included different aspects about our Federation and its structure, including also how medical students are looking forward to work with different aspects of primary health care, including rural health.
The International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) strongly supports improved access to rural and remote healthcare as stated in the Policy Statement on Rural and Remote Care approved during the 63rd General Assembly on 6th March 2014 in Hammamet, Tunisia. This document aims to calls upon organizational and national leaders, healthcare professionals, medical students and general activists in order to promote and improve medical education efforts surrounding the need for improved rural and remote healthcare, including also innovative medical technologies such as telemedicine and mobile health technologies.
The WONCA executive board, represented in the meeting by Dr Amanda Howe, President Elect, highlighted how important is the connection between WONCA and IFMSA, considering that Medical Students are one of the keys to change the reality of health in rural and isolated areas. We are the ones who need to change this reality now if we want to guarantee a quality of rural health care when we will become doctors. She also assured that IFMSA will be invited and involvedin 19th European Conference in July 2014,in the 13th World Rural health Conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia 2015 and in the WONCA World Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 2016.
Rural Health Care is a very important topic to be discussed, unfortunately those areas continue to be forgotten by public health politics that most of the times are focused only for urban areas. However, medical students can be involved to change this reality, advocating for a decent rural health care, improving its discussion in basic medical education and promoting the importance of a real universal health coverage, where urban and rural areas have the opportunities to access basic health services.
Arthur Mello, SCOPH Regional Assistant for the Americas
Ivana Di Salvo, Liaison Officer to Research and Medical Associations