The UBC Centre for Rural Health Research (CRHR) and BC Rural Health Network (BCRHN) are looking for input from South Cariboo residents on their healthcare needs.
The two organizations are running a survey this fall and summer called Closing the Gap, funded by the Social Planning and Research Council. Paul Adams, Executive Director of the BCRHN, said they want to create solutions for rural health issues that reflect the needs of the people they’re targeting.
“We have been in a healthcare crisis in rural B.C. for over two decades and we’ve seen that things are getting worse, not better,” Adams said. “COVID really shone a light and amplified the issues (of the healthcare system) but these issues have been present for years.
“We are in need of a change to ensure people have equity in access to healthcare across British Columbia.”
B.C.’s rural communities are home to thousands of residents, Adams noted, who generally feel their healthcare needs are not taken into account by policymakers. Too often policies designed for urban areas are shrunk down and applied to rural communities, which does not address the reality of living in those communities.
As a former 108 Mile Ranch resident who currently lives outside of Princeton, Adams said each rural community in B.C. is different and has its own healthcare challenges. There are differing costs to reach care not to mention the quality of the care, which needs to be taken into account.
“We’re not small urban populations, so small urban solutions don’t typically work in rural B.C.”
Closing the Gap plans to address these shortcomings by investigating the role rural communities play in healthcare policy-making, where there are currently disconnects in that process and then develop strategies to promote more effective engagement.
“Rather than coming to government with problems, our organization likes to come with a solution in hand to the problems that present themselves,” Adams said. “To do that we really need the data and information to support our positions.”
Dr. Jude Kornelsen, one of the project’s principal co-investigators, said she hopes to promote better health outcomes for rural communities across B.C. and create an online platform for public input on healthcare-related policies.
“Understanding current community experience with engagement in health planning is the first step to closing the gap,” Kornelsen said.
In addition to the survey of regular citizens, Adams said the investigators plan to interview policymakers and rural leaders for their insight into the status of rural healthcare involvement in policymaking. Adams encourages those interested in taking the survey to go to ubc.ca1.qualtrics.com or reach out to the project’s coordinator Kate Wills at firstname.lastname@example.org for help. All information provided in the survey will be kept confidential and anonymous, Adams said, and those who take it will not have to answer any questions that make them uncomfortable.
At the end of the survey, Adams said people will have the option to submit their email and be entered for a chance to win one of three $100 gift cards. The survey results will be shared with participants after it close in October as well as included in future articles, reports and presentations on the topic.
“We want to hear from as many rural individuals, communities and groups as possible in order to provide lived experience as part of the data,” Adams said. “I would encourage anyone who reads the 100 Mile Free Press to visit the survey link and provide your feedback because it’s essential to improving healthcare services across British Columbia.”