Rural Response to Disruptive Events
This research seeks to contribute knowledge to enhance emergency preparedness for rural communities to increase their resiliency by identifying critical challenges, assessing existing response plans, and recommending changes to enhance preparedness. Examining six counties from Ontario, this mixed-method project (i.e., surveys and interviews) will examine well-being (e.g., mental health), social behaviour (e.g., employment-impacted behaviour), day-to-day living (e.g., shopping habits) and risk management (e.g., accessing existing services).
The seven case studies (Bruce, Dufferin, Elgin, Grey, Middlesex, North Durham Region, Oxford), plus already complete Huron and Perth) will be a proxy to enable province-wide support to be identified and further developed to help ensure strong rural communities. Additionally, results will be able to be coalesced into geographic regions (e.g., provincial- and/or county-level, lower and/or upper tier municipalities) to support province-wide decisions but also, county-specific recommendations.
The goal of this project is to gather relevant data regarding the experiences of rural communities related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to inform policy decisions moving forward. This goal will be achieved through the following objectives:
1. IDENTIFY the financial challenges (e.g., reduced revenue streams) that rural communities face and the vulnerabilities (e.g., mental health, isolation, access to services) that rural residents are experiencing due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
2. ASSESS what priority programs that support vulnerable populations in rural areas during and post-COVID-19 have been effective.
3. RECOMMEND how municipal and provincial governments can (i) better respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and (ii) develop emergency response plans for future disruptions.
Results from this proposed research project will enable the provincial government to develop policy response based on data collected from across six rural counties (plus the data from the initial study) in Ontario. By anchoring policy decisions in locally-collected data, the impact and applicability of policy significantly increases. Additionally, by engaging with stakeholders from rural economic development, agricultural production, rural health care, and various other sub-sectors, this project will coalesce “expert opinion” with data collected from the surveys (e.g., rural residents) to develop an accurate description of the experiences of rural communities to develop recommendations for response to the COVID-19 pandemic and for future disruptive events.
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