The need for a complex systems approach in rural health research

Article


Hulme, Adam, Thompson, Jason, Brown, Andrew and Argus, Geoff. 2022. "The need for a complex systems approach in rural health research." BMJ Open. 12 (10). https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2022-064646
Article Title

The need for a complex systems approach in rural health research

ERA Journal ID200230
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsHulme, Adam, Thompson, Jason, Brown, Andrew and Argus, Geoff
Journal TitleBMJ Open
Journal Citation12 (10)
Article Numbere064646
Number of Pages11
Year2022
PublisherBMJ
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
ISSN2044-6055
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2022-064646
Web Address (URL)https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/12/10/e064646
Abstract

On a global scale, many major rural health issues have persisted for decades despite the introduction of new health interventions and public health policies. Although research efforts have generated valuable new knowledge about the aetiology of health, disease and health inequities in rural communities, rural health systems remain to be some of the most deprived and challenged in both the developing and developed world. While the reasons for this are many, a significant factor contributing to the current state of play is the pressing need for methodological innovation and relevant scientific approaches that have the capacity to support the translation of novel solutions into ‘real world’ rural contexts. Fortunately, complex systems approaches, which have seen an increase in popularity in the wider public health literature, could provide answers to some of the most resilient rural health problems in recent times. The purpose of this article is to promote the value and utility of a complex systems approach in rural health research. We explain the benefits of a complex systems approach and provide a background to the complexity sciences, including the main characteristics of complex systems. Two popular computational methods are described. The next step for rural health research involves exploring how a complex systems approach can help with the identification and evaluation of new and existing solutions to policy-resistant rural health issues. This includes generating awareness around the analytical trade-offs that occur between the use of traditional scientific methods and complex systems approaches.

Keywordsrural health; rural community
Byline AffiliationsUniversity of Queensland
University of Melbourne
University of the Sunshine Coast
Deakin University
School of Psychology and Wellbeing
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