Rural round up: The World of Rural Health

John Wynn-Jones, Chair of the WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice speaks of his hopes for the 14th WONCA Rural health conference coming up in Cairns at the end of April.

Its amazing to think that the “World of Rural Health” is almost upon us and only eight weeks way. The 14th WONCA World Rural Health Conference takes place in Cairns, Australia from 29th April to 2nd May. The WONCA conference is part of an even bigger event where we join with the Australian Rural Health Alliance to hold what is probably one of the largest and diverse rural health gatherings for many years.

It’s difficult to believe that we held our first WONCA World Rural Conference in 1996 in China. We have subsequently traveled to every corner of the world, championing and promoting rural practice. Its great to be back in Australia again and we have been delighted with the number of abstract submissions for workshops, free papers and posters. The scientific committee has managed to develop a full and robust programme, which is jam-packed with practical, strategic, educational and though provoking sessions. My only sadness, is that we can’t get to everyone.

The programme starts with the Alliance’s conference, leads on to the 3rd World Summit on Rural Generalism and finishes with the 14th WONCA World Rural Health Conference. Thanks to ACRRM (The Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine) for their vision and fantastic organisation, which means that those of you who will be joining us in Cairns are in for a really exciting and stimulating programme as well as the tropical delights of Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef and all that great Aussie hospitality.

As the chair of the WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice (RuralWONCA), I thought that I would take this opportunity to tell you what I am looking forward to during the conference.

The Alliance’s biennial National Rural Health Conference is the pre-eminent event in Australia for anyone who is committed to rural and remote health and wellbeing. It’s a multi-professional, multiagency and cross sectoral event which is committed to building healthy, sustainable and resilient rural communities. The conference is targeted at consumers, health professionals, students, researchers, managers and many more. Its about the bigger picture of health, community resilience and building of sustainable social capital.

We are delighted that the 3rd Global Summit on Rural Generalism is taking place immediately prior to the World Rural Health Conference. It is hosted by the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) in collaboration with the Society of Rural Physicians Canada (SRPC) Generalism is the essence of good rural practice. It means that we as rural family doctors have to expand the scope of our practice to meet the needs of our patients, providing care and services that usual provided by others in more urban settings. Extended rural generalism differs from country to country and from health service but when services are not readily available we need to ensure our rural workforces are well trained and are fit for purpose. This summit follows on from the successful previous summits and is targeting the areas of achieving recognition, gathering and generating the evidence, developing a rural generalist toolkit, and improving communication.

I am delighted to announce that this conference will have a special young doctor and medical student programme. We aim to ensure that this will become a regular feature of all future conferences. Students from around the world have shaped the programme and we aim to launch our new student and young doctor network in here in Cairns. I must mention a young medical student from Brazil who some of you may already know. Mayara Floss will be one of the keynote speakers in the main conference. She will be sharing the platform with the President of WONCA , Amanda Howe. Mayara’s contribution to RuralWONCA and especially the development of the student network, the Rural Café and rural Success stories has been immense.

Finaly, we will be welcoming members of the WONCA Environment Working Party to Cairns. Climate change in my opinion is the elephant in the corner for rural communities. I believe that climate change is the biggest threat to rural communities and the rural poor around the world in the future. We will be joining our environment colleagues for a workshop and we intend to release a joint statement at the end of the conference.

We hope to see as many of you as possible in Cairns. You can find everything you need at

It’s an un-missable conference and so is Australia. See you there!

John Wynn-Jones
Chair WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice