Defining rural in Aotearoa New Zealand: a novel geographic classification for health purposes

Jesse Whitehead, Gabrielle Davie, Brandon de Graaf, Sue Crengle, David Fearnley, MicHelle Smith, Ross Lawrenson & Garry Nixon

How rurality is defined matters, both from a policy and service delivery perspective, and for rural populations and communities. In health contexts a fit-for-purpose definition permits the accurate monitoring of the health of rural populations. This may identify rural–urban health inequities, providing the impetus for targeted strategy, policy, and interventions for the equitable allocation of resources. However, no internationally agreed definition of “rural” exists. Definitions are context-dependent, change over time, and have become increasingly blurred. To date, Aotearoa New Zealand has lacked a rural–urban classification designed for use in health research and policy.

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