Mahling A, M LeBlanc, & PA Peters. (2020). “Rural Resilience and Community Connections in Health: Outcomes of a Community Workshop.” Spatial Determinants of Health Lab, Carleton University: Ottawa ON. DOI: 10.22215/sdhlab/2020.1.

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Canadians living in rural communities are diverse, with individual communities defined by unique strengths and challenges that impact their health needs. Understanding rural health needs is a complex undertaking, with many challenges pertaining to engagement, research, and policy development. In order to address these challenges, it is imperative to understand the unique characteristics of rural communities as well as to ensure that the voices of rural and remote communities are prioritized in the development and implementation of rural health research programs and policy. Effective community engagement is essential in order to establish rural-normative programs and policies to improve the health of individuals living in rural, remote, and northern communities.

This report was informed by a community engagement workshop held in Golden Lake, Ontario in October 2019. Workshop attendees were comprised of residents from communities within the Madawaska Valley, community health care professionals, students and researchers from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, and international researchers from Australia, Sweden, and Austria. The themes identified throughout the workshop included community strengths and initiatives that are working well, challenges and concerns faced by the community in the context of health, and suggestions to build on strengths and address challenges to improve the health of residents in the Madawaska Valley.

The objectives of this report are:

  • To define rural health in the Canadian context
  • To provide an in-depth discussion of both the strengths and barriers impacting the health of residents in Ontario’s Madawaska Valley
  • To outline current rural health policy in contrast with the experiences of these communities
  • To determine potential future direction and recommendations based on the key findings of this report.

These objectives are met through an overview of rural health challenges in Canada, the identification of themes to highlight areas of importance in the context of health in the Madawaska valley, a brief overview of policy in relation to those themes, and recommendations to address challenges and establish improved rural-normative policy in Canada.

This report places the perspectives of rural residents at the forefront of the discussion and uses the themes, strengths, and challenges identified by workshop participants to frame the discussion and develop recommendations.