Researchers from the University of Melbourne’s Department of Rural Health have been visiting homes in Benalla this week as part of the Crossroads Research Project.
The research aims to provide local health services and partner organisations with information to help plan for the future and the changing needs of people in Benalla.
This project is a 15-year follow-up to research that was undertaken when the University of Melbourne built their Department of rural Health in Shepparton in 2002.
Project leader Professor David Simmons said the first survey looked at access to health services, the prevalence of different conditions and whether they were undiagnosed or not in the Goulburn Valley.
‘‘We actually had 7000 people across the Goulburn Valley participating, and we showed clearly there was a need for additional health services,’’ Professor Simmons said.
‘‘Data and reports were handed to different health services across the district and they were used to get further resources and to improve those services.
‘‘So we’re repeating that study and we’re looking at the same things.
‘‘So we look for if there is a need for a health service, what are the issues around that need, what do we need to do to address that need and then how has that need changed in the past 15 years.
‘‘We know there have been changes in access to health services and we’re going to look to see if there’s a relationship between the changes in access and the changes in undiagnosed conditions.’’
The 2002 research provided baseline data, which gave researchers a snapshot of health issue and service requirements around those issues.
Researchers will use the data collected as part of the current project to firstly see if the changes made in response to the original data have been effective, but also to understand what changes need to be made in the future.
‘‘We always saw this project as something which we wanted to come back to and have a look in the future,’’ Prof Simmons said.
‘‘Fifteen years later, if you have a look at access to General Practitioners for example, in some of the towns in the Goulburn Valley that has improved.
‘‘There are so many changes really, so we’d like to see how those changes relate to the changes in disease patterns and risk factors across the district, so now’s really a perfect time for it.’’
Research assistant Fulya Torun is part of the team collecting data in Benalla, she said that local people have been very helpful.
‘‘We ask people questions about their health and the health services they have been accessing in the last 12 months,’’ Ms Torun said.
‘‘We ask if they have any concerns about the medical services in the area, and then there are some lifestyle questions about food behaviour and eating habits.’’
Participating households are selected at random, so if you would like to take part simply wait to see if you get a knock at your door.