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Keywords:

  • health policy;
  • health status;
  • health system;
  • public health;
  • rural sociology

Abstract

This paper considers the role of culture in rural health, suggesting that the concept and its impacts are insufficiently understood and studied. It reviews some of the ways that culture has been considered in (rural) health, and states that culture is either used ambiguously and broadly – for example, suggesting that there is a rural culture, or narrowly – indeed perhaps interchangeably with ethnicity, for example Aboriginal culture as a unity. The paper notes that, although culture is a dynamic social concept, it has been adopted into a biomedical research paradigm as though it is fixed. Culture is often treated as though it is something that can be addressed simplistically, for example, through cultural sensitivity education. Authors suggest that culture is an unaddressed ‘elephant in the room’ in rural health, and that exploring cultural differences and beliefs and facing up to cultural differences are vital in understanding and addressing rural health and health system challenges.