Best-known for its medical support in the bush, the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) is doing much more these days than emergency medicine.

Health care professional Jess Thomas hits the roads for the RFDS to help deliver services to outback communities.

She covers thousands of kilometres each month as the front line of the organisation's Healthy Living Program.

"If we look at the statistics, people that live in remote areas tend to have worse health outcomes, they tend to be more overweight or obese or a higher chance to be overweight or obese," she said.

"There's issues such as lack of access to fresh produce and especially the quality of it and the pricing can be a real issue.

"There's less opportunities to be physically active. "

Among many initiatives is a men's cooking group at Oodnadatta.

It sees Indigenous men get together in the kitchen to learn how to be more resourceful and cook healthier meals.

Group leader Billy Naylom takes part and enjoys the tasty efforts from the group.

"They're learning to cook and eat healthy food as well and it looks to me like they're enjoying themselves now," he said.

"It's good for them because some of these boys here have got babies as well and the families and [they learn] to cook healthy ways, cooking for their children as well."

The idea of preventative health care was first considered by the RFDS long ago and the Health Living Program program started in 2007.

General manager of health services John Setchell said it was hoped to reduce the demand on the organisation's emergency services.

"The view is that if you can provide preventative services there's going to be less demand on the acute care services and people will live healthier lives," he said.

The program is funded by a Hong Kong-based organisation, the Li Ka Shing Foundation, which has just committed another $3 million to extend the efforts to at least 2016.

"One of the keys to a health prevention, health promotion-type program is it has to be kept, maintained," Mr Setchell said.

"A lot of very well-meaning foundations offer two years' funding to do something but in the outback community two years is only really enough time to get known, to be trusted to know that you're coming back and so for this program to have a 10-year funding cycle is an absolute first."

The program has had some promising results, with significant health improvements among the participants.

Jess Thomas said the health improvements and the friendships she had formed in remote communities made the long days of outback road travel worthwhile. 

"I would say it's very challenging, but rewarding. I think that people in remote areas are ... really kind-hearted," she said.

"They're really genuine, honest people, which is fantastic and you get to work with and meet so many great people.

"The rewards are fantastic and when someone says, you know, how much it means to them and that you've helped them to improve their lives and how much it means that you're here, that really makes it worthwhile."

 

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