Improved access to health information needed in rural communities

February 17, 2017 by Paul Mayne
Health Information Sciences PhD student Brad Hiebert is looking into how rural male farmers are accessing health-care services and how to improve access for general health information. Credit: Paul Mayne // Western News

Raised in a rural farming community, Brad Hiebert knows full well accessing health-care services and general health information can sometimes be a challenge.

Hospitals are shutting down; doctors are leaving town and local health clinics – should a be fortunate enough to even have one – are open just a couple days a week.

"As a rural person, I understand the frustration of always feeling like you're getting punished for where you live," said Hiebert, a Health Information Sciences PhD student.

"There is a developing distrust towards the system, and when that happens, it's difficult to get back. There is less service, and if trends keep going this way, we need to find ways to get them (rural communities) information about their health in ways they deem acceptable."

Hiebert's research looks at individuals in rural communities – men in particular – and how they are accessing health-related information.

Growing up in Paris, Ont., Hiebert had a local doctor who ended up leaving the community. The family was able to get a doctor in nearby Kitchener, but he can count on one hand the number of times he saw him.

"He wasn't accessible at all; he was an hour away," he said.

Hiebert aims to look at rural populations and find a way that could help empower them to deal with cutbacks that are inevitably going to keep coming, he added.

"It's the system we live in and, in publically funded health care, you have to be pragmatic about funding. That's understandable, to an extent," he said. "But in looking at how rural male farmers seek health information, this is the first step in a long chain of if they see a doctor, or why they don't. I'm interested in why that is. What is their mindset?"

Having spoken to just under a dozen farmers at this point – and anticipating another 20 or so interviews – Hiebert is starting to see some commonalities. Farmers feel decisions are being made for them, not by them; there is frustration in the way health-care services have been restructured and a sense that decision makers do not understand rural life.

He added the 'gotta be tough' mindset may also play into the way rural men are addressing their health. Some are apprehensive to talk about their health which, in and of itself, is a finding, said Hiebert.

"Living in a rural area is one thing, but what they think socially of a health issue is another. What's minor in the rural area may have someone in the city seeing a doctor," he said.

A story of one farmer who, when he was a teenager, broke his thumb but was told to 'grab a stick and some string' because the grain had to be taken in comes to mind, Hiebert added.

"I want to parse out how being a man, living in a , living on a farm, and having the mindset of 'you have to be tough and work through everything' – along with living with a lack of access to care and lack of other infrastructure services – how they all come together to influence how they seek ," said Hiebert. "Ideally, I'm trying to give rural populations a voice in policy decisions at some level."

Early results from his study also indicate there is a generational component and varying opinions on what needs to happen to improve health services in rural areas. While we all realize issues such as heart disease, cancer and stroke need to be dealt with immediately, what about healthy eating, or how sitting for long periods of time can affect the lower back?

"How do they (farmers) get this information? How do they want this information?" said Hiebert. "If it's from pamphlets, then do that. If it's stories in their local papers, then do that. Find out what works for them and give them what they want."

Explore further: Digital photography could be a key factor in rural health care

Related Stories

Digital photography could be a key factor in rural health care

February 9, 2017
Photographs may lead to better treatment and care for patients in rural communities, a UBC Okanagan study shows.

CDC: higher risk of death from leading causes in rural America

January 13, 2017
(HealthDay)—Americans who live in rural areas have a higher risk of death from five leading causes than people who live in urban locations, according to research published in the Jan. 13 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease ...

Rural nursing homes are falling behind in health information technology

December 13, 2016
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 million older Americans depend on nursing homes for their health care. The 16,000 nursing homes in the United States serve populations of all sizes; ...

Rural dementia—we need to talk

January 11, 2017
Research carried out by Plymouth University into the experience of dementia in farming and farming families, and its impact on their businesses and home lives, has identified four areas of concern which need to be addressed ...

Study looks to share rural shelter expertise

August 19, 2016
Western Health Sciences researchers are drawing attention to the challenges of – and hoping to find solutions for – women who experience violence using shelters in rural Ontario settings.

Rural appalachia faces growing cancer crisis, research shows

November 26, 2016
(HealthDay)—While the rest of the United States makes major strides against cancer, a cancer crisis is taking hold in rural Appalachia.

Recommended for you

Expert: Be concerned about how apps collect, share health data

October 20, 2017
As of 2016 there were more than 165,000 health and wellness apps available though the Apple App Store alone. According to Rice University medical media expert Kirsten Ostherr, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates ...

Three million Americans carry loaded handguns daily, study finds

October 19, 2017
An estimated 3 million adult American handgun owners carry a firearm loaded and on their person on a daily basis, and 9 million do so on a monthly basis, new research indicates. The vast majority cited protection as their ...

More teens than ever aren't getting enough sleep

October 19, 2017
If you're a young person who can't seem to get enough sleep, you're not alone: A new study led by San Diego State University Professor of Psychology Jean Twenge finds that adolescents today are sleeping fewer hours per night ...

Across Asia, liver cancer is linked to herbal remedies: study

October 18, 2017
Researchers have uncovered widespread evidence of a link between traditional Chinese herbal remedies and liver cancer across Asia, a study said Wednesday.

Eating better throughout adult years improves physical fitness in old age, suggests study

October 18, 2017
People who have a healthier diet throughout their adult lives are more likely to be stronger and fitter in older age than those who don't, according to a new study led by the University of Southampton.

Global calcium consumption appears low, especially in Asia

October 18, 2017
Daily calcium intake among adults appears to vary quite widely around the world in distinct regional patterns, according to a new systematic review of research data ahead of World Osteoporosis Day on Friday, Oct. 20.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.