Which remote and rural Queensland towns have greatest health workforce needs? Development of a prioritisation tool

Jo Symons1, Melissa Johnstone1, Davina Sanders1

1Health Workforce Queensland GPO Box 2523 Brisbane, QLD 4001, jsymons@healthworkforce.com.au

People living in remote, rural and regional areas have poorer access to health care and worse health outcomes than their urban counterparts, with increasing remoteness generally associated with greater health inequity. When comparing communities the norm is to compare across one or two of the major risk factors such as population size, remoteness and socio-economic status. However, each of these factors are one dimensional and may miss other important elements related to workforce and community needs. Health Workforce Queensland undertook  their ‘Priority Communities’ project to develop a multi-dimensional tool to measure, rank and prioritise remote and rural communities in Queensland with the greatest health needs.

An evidence-based methodology generated baseline data for each town using components identified as key health need drivers: demographics, medical workforce and remoteness. Key health drivers were given weightings and applied to each town to reflect differential need. Towns were further stratified using a ‘GP per weighted population’ ratio. Following this, a ‘multi criteria decision analysis’ matrix step was undertaken per town, comprising several measures of health service access to further disaggregate and rank the priority group.

The purpose of this presentation is to provide a snapshot of the tool and how it can be adapted for use for remote and rural allied health organisations, PHNs, or other organisations that have an interest in service provision according to health and workforce ‘need’.  We aim to outline the potential value of this robust ‘Priority Communities’ tool to assist address health inequities in rural and remote communities.


Jo Symons is a Physiotherapist with a breadth of rural and remote experience, having worked clinically and at all levels of management in a primary health care organisation based in Mount Isa, Qld. Jo has operated a consultancy business, specialising in primary health care service modeling that meets the experienced needs of rural and remote communities. Jo’s current role is Manager Health Workforce & Service Planning for Health Workforce Queensland, where she has the opportunity to develop sustainable service delivery models and workforce solutions for a broad range of clients in the rural and remote PHC sector.

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