A partnership between the departments of rural health at three Australian universities will focus on a wide range of health strategies for remote areas across most of Victoria.
The collaboration among Melbourne, Monash and Deakin universities was launched this week at the University of Melbourne's Ballarat Rural Clinical School, and will also cover Indigenous programs and nursing and allied health training placements.
The universities plan to share resources and jointly advocate for improved training and research and better rural health outcomes across Victoria.
The plans also include working collaboratively to develop statewide initiatives in priority areas such as mental health and Indigenous health.
"It will enable bigger, better, more efficient and more effective rural health strategies to be implemented across the state," Monash rural health, rural nursing and allied lead Susan Waller said in a statement.
Each university's UDRH program currently covers different regions, with Melbourne focused on Shepparton, Wangaratta and Ballarat, while Deakin covers Warrnambool and Hamilton and Monash on Bendigo, Mildura and Gippsland.
"Our programs support the existing rural health workforce, train the next generation of rural health practitioners and develop new and innovative approaches to workforce development, recruitment and retention," University of Melbourne UDRH Director Lisa Bourke said in a statement. "We have always been supportive of each other but now we actively seek to work together."
The partnership will also include conferences of research teams, which will meet to develop state-side projects in support of nursing, psychology, social work and other mental health disciplines across rural Victoria.
"We support students to go out to these small rural services, use their skills and contribute to the health service in positive ways," Deakin UDRH Director Vincent Versace said in a statement.
He noted that Deakin planned support for student placements in small towns where accommodation for them could be difficult to find and where educators were "thin on the ground," as well as build upon workforce development approaches and strategies for Indigenous health.
The University of Melbourne has already partnered with La Trobe University to offer country students a fully articulated end-to-end rural training program, without having to leave rural Victoria.
The aim of the partnership is to improve health service provision and outcomes for people living in rural and regional Victoria.
The university has run a Rural Clinical School program at Shepparton for several years, which works to achieve specialist placements in areas such as psychiatry and internal medicine and also supports mentoring programs to assist students in decisions about rural careers.