Wellbeing and health in a small New Zealand rural community

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Chrystal Jaye, Judith McHugh, Fiona Doolan-Noble, Lincoln Wood,
Wellbeing and health in a small New Zealand rural community: Assets, capabilities and being rural-fit. Journal of Rural Studies, Volume 92, 2022, Pages 284-293, ISSN 0743-0167


A nice paper that’s well worth reading,  A ‘healthy’ reminder about what actually matters.  Healthcare doesn’t figure that highly when rural dwellers consider health. Place is much more important, both the geographic and the social. There are no prizes for guessing the community!


Rural dwellers in New Zealand often have fewer locally available health services. Health inequities are particularly salient for rural dwellers who are older and/ or Māori, yet the focus on these inequities has resulted in a deficit view of rural. There has been little attention to considering health and wellbeing through positive frameworks such as the Assets and Capabilities approaches. This project aimed to explore what can be learned from one small rural community about wellbeing and health; including sources of wellbeing and health. A combination of qualitative methods was used to collect data from 17 adults living in a small South Island rural community. All participants were interviewed and given the option of taking photographs to illustrate what wellbeing and health meant to them. Most participants reported that they were satisfied with their access to primary healthcare services, while acknowledging service gaps, particularly in mental health and emergency services. Health was described primarily in terms of wellbeing, and participants referenced concepts of wellbeing and health against local assets (place, community support networks, livestock, rural lifestyle and values), and a suite of capabilities adapted to the demands of the place in which they lived. The high value that rural dwellers place on the assets of their rural community and the contribution of these to their wellbeing and health may mitigate the disadvantages of distance to health services. This balance is mediated by capabilities that may be rural specific, particularly mobility and physical functioning.

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