How mobile medical clinics tackle health equity Down Under
Despite global progress over the past decades, many people worldwide still struggle to receive a high level of healthcare services. This can also be seen in developed countries like Australia. The vast distances between the country’s rural communities can make access to specialist healthcare services a remarkable challenge.
To contribute towards eliminating health disparities around the globe as part of our Sustainable Development – For Generations framework, we support the NextGen Medics program by Heart of Australia. This organization delivers specialist healthcare services to rural and indigenous communities across Queensland, a significant gap in healthcare that needs to be addressed.
Due to our support for the NextGen Medics program, we enable medical and allied health students to gain hands-on experience in medical practices and better understand the opportunities and the difference they will be making with a career in rural healthcare.
We had the chance to join them in Theodore, Queensland – listen to what they have to say about health disparities in rural areas!
When going to Theodore, we took the opportunity to talk to NextGen Medics program participant Abhash and Theodore native Keith, who both gain from this initiative.
What brought you here, to Theodore?
Abhash: For university, I was having a look at different rural programs. I've always been following the activities of Heart of Australia and there was an opportunity to participate in the NextGen medics program, so I applied. I was very nervous, and when I got the phone call saying that I was in, I was so grateful to be part of it.
Keith: 70 years ago my parents bought a property here, a dairy farm. We were six children. Just minimal medical facilities were available: Theodore only built a hospital in the early sixties. In 1965 I started with beef cattle farming, that was the happiest day of my life.
What does the access to rural healthcare mean to you personally?
Abhash: As a kid, I've always thought about improving people's lives. So, into the field of medicine is where I chose to go. But I didn't just want to be just another doctor – I’d like to contribute to something even bigger to medicine. It's been great talking to the patients here because they tell us about this place and they've been very welcoming to us as well, which really shows how much rural communities appreciate doctors.
Keith: I've had bypass surgery. In those days, when I had to go to Brisbane for treatment, I lost three days for each trip. So, it’s a lot of time wasted. And that's the wonderful thing about having the Heart of Australia trucks come to Theodore: My appointment yesterday took four hours, but if I had had the same diagnostics and checks and scans that I would have had in Brisbane, it would have taken days.
What do you like most about the NextGen Medics program?
Abhash: The persons you get to know! For many years, Dr. Rolf Gomes has been a big inspiration to me because he started the Heart of Australia trucks. It has been great being able to work with him and an absolutely amazing cohort, just like with all the specialists that joined: They are really passionate about rural healthcare. It has been a great learning opportunity, not just to learn about the medical side of things, but also the community side of things.
Do you feel well looked after in the trucks?
Keith: When I first heard about the Heart of Australia trucks, I couldn't believe it. It was a thrill for us to have them come to Theodore. The trucks really have everything needed, which is incredible. It's the same as what you're going to get in the city. I just hope it continues and we see the trucks around for a long time – and that maybe some of the students will some day become doctors in a rural area. They are certainly needed!
Our engagement to improve health equity for underserved communities:
By targeting rural and indigenous communities across Queensland, the NextGen Medics program relates to a key objective of Boehringer Ingelheim: contribute towards eliminating health disparities around the globe. Through our Sustainable Development – For Generations framework, we are committed to improving access to healthcare for 50 million people in vulnerable communities by 2030. This is how we define these groups: