Gateway Rural Health, based in Goderich Ontario, aims to improve the health and quality of life of rural residents in Huron, Perth, Grey, and Bruce Counties. Founded in 2008, this not-for-profit is governed by community-based volunteers who work to advance rural health teaching and community-based research across rural counties. They are committed to engaging health care professionals in rural settings and enabling rural citizens to take control of their health.
Gateway was established because many of those living in rural communities have higher rates of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, and more. Through innovation in rural health research, education, and health business, Gateway aims to improve both health care and health care delivery in rural areas, and attract health care professionals so that rural citizens can take control of their health.
Gateway believes that better health of residents in rural communities can contribute to a healthier local economy, with reduced healthcare and hospital admissions required over time. They believe that through research, education, and communication, they can create a model that would help all rural Canadians.
Currently, Gateway Rural Health is working on numerous projects, including: G.R.E.A.T Local Food Project; Work Well Be Well; Lonely No More; Food Accessibility and Insecurity Among Rural Seniors; and Connectedness Coaching. Another Gateway project is a 2020 research study titled “Impact pf COVID-19 on the Well-Being of Rural Healthcare Workers.” This study was undertaken study because it was noted that healthcare workers have to face the pandemic both professionally and personally, and therefore it was important to identify stresses and sources of support of rural healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This study’s main finding was that fear was the biggest stressor for healthcare workers – fear for their own health, fear they may infect loved ones, and fears due to changing protocols on caring for patients. Other stressors included, being and feeling overworked, and constantly changing environments. Many of the participants in the study noted that these fears did not exist before the pandemic and most felt it was a direct result of the pandemic. These stressors were also impacting them outside of their workplace, starting to affect their work/life balance and family challenges. It also began to take a toll of their physical and mental health. To read the full report, click here
“Lonely No More,” another current Gateway project, works to enhance the well-being of older adults by co-facilitating new networks and enabling improved community engagement by integrating peer support, coaching conversations, and systems navigation. They do this through a virtual outreach model that helps to empower those who self-identify with negative impacts of social isolation. This model is currently used to serve rural living older adults and offers group chats in a party-line style where three to five older adults engage together. These chats are facilitated by two trained Community Volunteers (Elder Circles) through a three-pronged approach to combatting social isolation – peer support, coaching conversations, and systems navigation.