Helping policy-makers address rural health access problems

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Abstract

This paper provides a comprehensive review of the key dimensions of access and their significance for the provision of primary health care and a framework that assists policy-makers to evaluate how well policy targets the dimensions of access. Access to health care can be conceptualised as the potential ease with which consumers can obtain health care at times of need. Disaggregation of the concept of access into the dimensions of availability, geography, affordability, accommodation, timeliness, acceptability and awareness allows policy-makers to identify key questions which must be addressed to ensure reasonable primary health care access for rural and remote Australians. Evaluating how well national primary health care policies target these dimensions of access helps identify policy gaps and potential inequities in ensuring access to primary health care. Effective policies must incorporate the multiple dimensions of access if they are to comprehensively and effectively address unacceptable inequities in health status and access to basic health services experienced by rural and remote Australians.

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