Rural health around the world: challenges and solutions

Fam Pract. 2003 Aug;20(4):457-63. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmg422.


Despite the huge differences between developing and developed countries, access is the major issue in rural health around the world. Even in the countries where the majority of the population lives in rural areas, the resources are concentrated in the cities. All countries have difficulties with transport and communication, and they all face the challenge of shortages of doctors and other health professionals in rural and remote areas. Many rural people are caught in the poverty- ill health-low productivity downward spiral, particularly in developing countries. Since 1992, WONCA, the World Organization of Family Doctors, has developed a specific focus on rural health through the WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice. This Working Party has drawn national and international attention to major rural health issues through World Rural Health Conferences and WONCA Rural Policies. The World Health Organization (WHO) has broadened its focus beyond public health to partnership with family practice, initially through a landmark WHO-WONCA Invitational Conference in Canada. From this has developed the Memorandum of Agreement between WONCA and WHO which emphasizes the important role of family practitioners in primary health care and also includes the Rural Health Initiative. In April 2002, WHO and WONCA held a major WHO-WONCA Invitational Conference on Rural Health. This conference addressed the immense challenges for improving the health of people of rural and remote areas of the world and initiated a specific action plan: The Global Initiative on Rural Health. The "Health for All" vision for rural people is more likely to be achieved through joint concerted efforts of international and national bodies working together with doctors, nurses and other health workers in rural areas around the world.

MeSH terms

  • Culture
  • Family Practice
  • Global Health*
  • Humans
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Rural Health
  • Rural Health Services / organization & administration*
  • World Health Organization