What are the main difficulties encountered by GPs in rural areas? What are the obstacles to their setting up in these areas? How are visits, travel, on-call care and on-call duty organised in rural areas? What are the new practices and how are GPs using new technologies? UNamur has set up a new university observatory for rural medicine to understand and respond to a range of issues facing the front line of care in rural areas.
Under the guidance of a multidisciplinary steering committee made up of general practitioners and academics in the fields of pharmacy, psychology and health geography, this new observatory will have three main missions:
- To understand the difficulties encountered by GPs in rural areas;
- To propose realistic and practical solutions to improve the situation of medicine in rural areas;
- To give a voice to those involved in rural medicine by creating a community of academics and carers.
"Understanding the realities on the ground with a maximum of nuance also means giving a voice to all those involved in rural medicine on the ground. They will be consulted as part of the surveys, but also at conferences and round tables organised as part of the project," explains Dr Dominique Henrion, a lecturer at the Faculty of Medicine and a general practitioner. The observatory will therefore also be a forum for dialogue between all those involved in primary care (doctors, nurses, pharmacists, etc.) and for continuing training for GPs.
The results of the work will be widely disseminated through reports and a memorandum sent to all stakeholders, including politicians. They will be incorporated into the training provided as part of the new specialised master's degree in general medicine (see elsewhere) that is opening at UNamur, with a view to preparing future GPs as effectively as possible and encouraging them to set up practice in rural areas.
An initial study: defining rural medicine in Belgium
An initial study has been launched to define rural medicine in Belgium, particularly in Wallonia, and to identify the main areas of interest. The research will be carried out by UNamur's Department of Geography, under the supervision of Catherine Linard, an expert in health geography and Director of UNamur's Department of Geography.
Implementation within 5 years
The Rural medicine university observatory proposes to roll out its activities over 5 years, between 2023 and 2028, subject to funding. Launched in autumn 2023, it will propose a first round table in autumn 2024 and organise two conferences a year, each year between 2024 and 2028. A second round table will be held in 2028.
Regular progress reports will be produced: two interim reports, in 2024 and 2026, and a final report and memorandum in 2028.
Medicine studies at the University of Namur
"General practice is a crucial public health issue, which it seems essential to address right from the start of the training of young doctors. This is why UNamur was the first French-speaking university to include a placement in general medicine, which is compulsory for all students from the third year of their bachelor's degree," points out Professor Jean-Michel Dogné, Dean of UNamur's Faculty of Medicine.
From September 2024, the University of Namur will organise a Master degree specialised in general medicine in co-diplomation with UClouvain and in co-organisation with the University of Luxembourg.
Crowdfunding to support the project
To achieve its ambitions, the university observatory of rural medicine is looking for support and partners willing to get involved to provide solutions to a major public health issue. A crowdfunding campaign has been launched with partners and the general public. 100% of the funds raised will be used to carry out research into the specific problems affecting rural medicine and to find solutions.