Responding to the ‘thin' markets of rural and remote disability services. Quantitative and spatial analysis is part of the picture


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Pim Kuipers
1 PhD, Principal Research Fellow * ORCID logo

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Ali Lakhani
2 PhD, Senior Lecturer ORCID logo

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Heather Jensen
3 M Hlth Sci (Occ Thy), Allied Health Academic


1 The Hopkins Centre, Griffith University; and Central Queensland Centre for Rural and Remote Health, James Cook University, Emerald, Qld 4720, Australia

2 The School of Psychology and Public Health, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Vic. 3086, Australia

3 Rural and Remote Health NT, College of Medicine and Public Health, Flinders University, Alice Springs, NT 0870, Australia

ACCEPTED: 17 March 2022

early abstract:

Policy makers, funding bodies and service provider agencies require objective indicators to ensure quality, equity, and access. We sought to depict the availability of rural and remote allied health and disability services in Queensland using one such indicator (spatial analysis) to explore concepts related to 'thin markets', including 'market sufficiency' and 'market diversity'. Our findings counter-intuitively suggested that more remote settings had greater disability service sufficiency and diversity than larger regional centres. While on careful interpretation this 'face value' observation can be rationalised, it could also be used to influence decision making to the detriment of remote area consumers and communities. Most importantly, it does not adequately incorporate consumer, community and service provider realities in remote areas. This led us to consider additional factors that should routinely be acknowledged to broaden planning for disability services in rural and remote settings. We suggest a number of additional considerations that should also inform policy, funding and service planning decisions. The challenge facing all stakeholders is to develop new indicators that are meaningfully reflective of the realities of rural and remote consumers, families, communities and service providers, as well as market realities.