Morris Julia, Bobiak Julia, Asad Fatima, & Fozia Nur. (2021) “Report: Accessibility of Health Data in Rural Canada.” Spatial Determinants of Health Lab, Carleton University: Ottawa ON. DOI: 10.22215/sdhlab/2020.4

A full PDF of this report is also available.

Executive Summary 

The accessibility of rural health data in Canada is constrained by multiple structural and technical challenges. Survey, administrative, and census data collected in Canada are not easily accessible to health planners, policy analysts, or local health administrators, nor does the available data correspond to rurally relevant boundaries and rural places. Additionally, those data that are available only provide rudimentary indicators of population health and social determinants, ignoring important issues such as social inequity, rural poverty, and the health conditions of concern to residents in rural regions. One solution that has been proposed is the development of a web-based, openly accessible mapping and data visualization that is informed by and specific to the needs of rural health professionals.

To inform the development of an interactive web-based rural health atlas, the Rural Atlas team within the Spatial Determinants Lab at Carleton University, Department of Health Sciences carried out two sets of informal interviews (User Needs Assessment and Tool Development). These interviews were conducted in order to obtain insight from key stakeholders that have been involved in rural health settings, rural health policy or advocacy, or the development of health mapping tools. Interviews took place via video-conferencing software with participants in the spring of 2020. These interviews have informed the development of our mapping tool for rural regions and health care system decision makers. The input from these interviews will aid us in creating a stronger evidence base for identifying health inequities and guide potential directions for policy development.

The following report provides a brief summary of the findings of both sets of interviews. Researchers took the semi structured interview notes and further analyzed them to pull out common themes introduced throughout the interviews. Using the information identified within these common themes, the Rural Atlas team is now able to tailor the health mapping tool to best fit the needs of the communities it will aid.