Walker Sarah M., Kennedy Ewan, Nixon Garry, Blattner Katharina (2022) The allied health workforce of rural Aotearoa New Zealand: a scoping review. Journal of Primary Health Care. https://doi.org/10.1071/HC22055
Open Access https://www.publish.csiro.au/HC/HC22055
Great to see a focus on rural allied health professionals (AHP) who are often under-appreciated when we consider optimising health outcomes in our rural communities. The lack of published material will not be surprising to AHP living and working in rural/remote Aotearoa and I applaud Sarah and colleagues for starting this narrative and highlighting important areas for research that could address rural AHP workforce capacity, capability, recognition and career progression.
Introduction: The allied health workforce is a crucial, if at times poorly visible, component of modern healthcare systems. The services provided by allied health professionals may be particularly important for underserved populations, including rural and remote communities.
Aim: To determine what is currently known through research about the allied health workforce in rural Aotearoa New Zealand.
Method: A scoping review of diverse sources of literature from Aotearoa New Zealand was obtained from seven databases (July 2011–July 2021).
Results: Eighty-nine articles were identified, of which 10 met the inclusion criteria; nine empirical studies and one narrative review. The included research fell into two main categories: geographic workforce distribution (n = 8), and the role of the rural allied health workforce (n = 2).
Discussion: The paucity of research that meets the criteria for inclusion makes it difficult to draw conclusions about the allied health workforce in rural Aotearoa New Zealand. There is a focus in both the international rural allied health literature and the Aotearoa New Zealand rural medical and nursing literature on: measuring geographic workforce distribution; and rural-specific training. This suggests that these issues are important to the rural workforce. Similar research is needed in Aotearoa New Zealand to inform policy and ensure the rural allied health workforce reaches its full potential in improving health outcomes for rural New Zealanders.