You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
She was invited to speak at a seminar for students and university staff on July 21 at the University of Otago, Wellington. It was streamed live to an audience at the Ministry of Health.
Mrs Pittaway talked about the challenges rural people had accessing health services, including geographic isolation, and the lack of services and agency support, which had not changed since the 1920s.
In addition ''their concerns around health and education for themselves and their families, being connected to the outside world and being able to access the services they required'' were key.
New Zealand's rural population of about 620,000 represents our second largest city, effectively.
''Yet we continually struggle to get the equivalent services that the rest of the New Zealand population expects,'' Mrs Pittaway said.
She said there was no accurate definition of ''rural'', as the Government used the New Zealand Statistics definitions, which did not reflect the number of people who lived in the country but accessed urban medical services or those who had Rural Delivery addresses but who were counted as part of a nearby town, which skewed the statistics.
''A sizeable portion of rural people are recorded as urban.''
She spoke of the difficulties some women had in accessing midwives or antenatal classes in Te Anau and said often women had to travel some distance to a birthing unit.
''We don't know whether our children are disadvantaged because they have poorer access to maternity and youth health services than urban children.
''There is no data available.''
She also talked about how fewer young doctors wished to work in rural areas, and about the issues of poor internet connectivity in some rural areas.
She said 25% of rural general practices were looking for full-time GPs and a third of pharmacies had difficulty with recruitment.
Travel to hospitals and specialist appointments could be long and arduous.
Mrs Pittaway gave anecdotal evidence of patients who lived in isolated areas having difficulties accessing the District Nursing Service at home due to the additional travelling costs.
Studies overseas had suggested those who lived rurally had poorer health than their urban counterparts.
''Once diagnosed, rural people unquestionably face greater challenges and costs of access to health services and specialist treatments.
''It is also reasonable to assume there is a greater impact of disease or illness on rural people and their families.
''It is a reasonable assumption that this results in poorer health outcomes,'' Mrs Pittaway said.
-By Yvonne O'Hara