None of the political parties have an answer to solve the growing rural health crisis, a leading rural health expert says.
Michelle Thompson, chief executive of the Rural Health Alliance of Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ), says they surveyed all political parties asking what they will do to help rural health over the next three years.
"While all parties managed to respond, in the end, it was surprising that a week out from the election that none of them had clear information on how they would provide equitable rural health funding," Thompson says.
"This demonstrates the parties haven't really understood the specific challenges rural people face accessing health and social services due to factors such as low population density and/or isolation.
"There is the mentality that a single health policy fits all. Yet, we know that taking an urban policy and imposing it in a rural setting seldom works.
A new government needs to help remove barriers so rural people's health is considered just as important as those who live in cities.
"We don't even have a nationally agreed definition of what rural is, in terms of health services in New Zealand. This is shameful given our reliance on the rural economy.
"Having a fit for purpose definition of rurality was one of two key election asks we made to politicians yet there is no mention of this in their summaries.
"Nor is there mention of our second election priority which is the need to rural-proof government policy. The concept here is that our policy makers need to consult with rural communities and business when developing policy to make sure they have understood the rural reality so that their policies don't actually make health inequities worse.