This month, Dr Jared Green joined the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Vaccination Programme Team to provide a rural voice for the planning, design and roll out of the vaccination programme to rural communities.
When the Ministry of Health launched its COVID-19 Vaccine programme, it was quickly noticed that rural communities were not identified as an area with unique challenges and needs, that require a tailored approach to the delivery of the vaccine programme.
The Network lobbied strongly with the COVID-19 team at the Ministry for the inclusion of a rural expert to ensure implementation plans would work for rural communities. We are grateful that they listened, and we worked in partnership to find Jared to fill the position.
Jared comes from a rural background, having grown up in Taupō and spending some of his school years in Taranaki.
When asked why he chose to follow a career in health, Jared says he originally wanted to be an optometrist but decided to broaden his study to medicine when he was 16.
“I am not sure what sparked it off but have always found working with vulnerable and difficult to reach people in health to be quite compelling.”
Jared has a strong connection to rural towns, and says “if I ever need to recharge, I tend to favour being in small places, stillness, and quiet.”
“I grew up in a smallish town and most of my family live in small places, so rural is the ‘norm’ from which I view everything else,” he says.
It is no surprise that Jared has trained and worked his way through rural New Zealand including in Northland, Taranaki, Marlborough, and the West Coast. He has also spent time working in Central Australia and the Northern Territory.
Jared says, “I enjoy the sense of community in small places and the work provides different challenges to working in more highly resourced settings.”
“Rural folk tend to have a special relationship with ‘country’ and place,” he says.
Since moving back from the Northern Territory in late 2019, Jared has been dividing his work between Thames Hospital where he is a Rural Hospital Doctor and Waikato Hospital where he works as an infectious disease’s specialist and general physician.
He also assists an NGO in Kiribati, which Jared says is “pretty remote”.
Jared is deputy chairperson of Aotearoa New Zealand Advanced Training Committee for General and Acute Care Medicine, Royal Australasian College of Physicians.
Jared recognises that healthcare in rural areas is very different from urban areas. Rural communities have individual needs that require attention.
“The considerations about planning care have to pay more heed to their context, and communication is vitally important,” he says.
“Overseas, rural people are exposed to a whole different range of risks to health and illness specific to remote locations. In New Zealand, distance and centralised services present challenges.”
In his role as Rural Cohort Manager, Jared will be responsible for providing specialist advice to ensure the systems used to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine programme are designed to meet the needs of our rural communities.
He will also assist with the identification of appropriate delivery models and will also support engagement with DHBs, PHOs and national bodies and provide advice to implementing partners where needed.
Jared says there are already big challenges to overcome for rural communities including underdeveloped infrastructure, workforce shortages, and increased barriers to care, which need to be recognised in the planning and design of the covid vaccine programme for rural areas.
“Each rural community is different, and needs a tailored approach to developing responsive services,” he says.
“With respect to COVID-19 vaccination, ensuring equitable access of immunisation and vaccine services to all eligible and willing New Zealanders is a vitally important part of the programme- some solutions for rural populations may look a little bit different to what takes place in the cities in regards to service delivery.”
A key part of Jared’s role will focus on “ensuring that a responsive service framework for rural communities is developed so that all eligible and willing rural New Zealanders are able to receive their COVID-19 vaccination in a timely and culturally safe way.”