News at Medicine - April 2007 - New health initiative for aboriginal and rural health education

New health initiative for aboriginal and rural health education
April 10, 2007
A major funding announcement concerning health education to rural and Aboriginal Canadians was made April 3. The announcement of funding up to $400,000 towards the project Building Capacity for Aboriginal and Rural Health Education, was made by MP Dick Harris in the Bentley Centre at the University of Northern British Columbia. The partners in this initiative are Memorial University, the University of Northern British Columbia, the University of Saskatchewan, Lakehead University and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. All have mandates that include health programming for and with Aboriginal, northern and rural communities.

Rick AudasIndividually, each of the partners have strengths in specific areas of rural and/or aboriginal public health education, and deliver programs within their regions at the undergraduate and graduate level, both for-credit and not-for-credit, and in a variety of formats (e.g., face-to-face, web-based, audio and videoconferenced). However, by collaborating, the capacity of all the partners to deliver a broader scope of educational programming for a greater number of Canadian communities is enhanced. The partners have already accomplished a significant amount in developing a framework for further collaboration.

“Memorial University is pleased to be involved in this initiative, which is a good example of how partnerships are able to accomplish what would not be possible by any one organization,” said President Axel Meisen. “All the partners have mandates that include health programming for and with aboriginal, northern and rural communities. Pooling our expertise in rural and aboriginal health education will build public health capacity in rural Canada, and the investment from the Government of Canada will enable this to happen.”

One of the more significant outcomes of discussions among the partners has been the development of a vision for future collaboration, stated as follows: “to assist in building the capacity for populations in rural, remote and aboriginal communities to improve their own health.”

This vision leads to the overall objective to this funding proposal; to increase the capacity of rural, northern and Aboriginal communities to prevent and respond to public health challenges by exposing greater numbers of learners to basic and advanced training/education in public health, specifically oriented to the needs within their communities.

Dr. Rick Audas, pictured here, assistant professor in the Division of Community Health and Humanities is the Memorial University principal investigator on the consortia. He said this announcement is an important initiative in the division in terms of reaching its mandate for expanding public health capacity throughout the province.

“It has been a long-standing objective of the division to offer tailored programming to students in rural, remote and aboriginal communities and we believe this is a significant step forward in terms of meeting this objective,” he said.

“This initiative will allow us to tap into best practice elsewhere in terms of improving public health and will give our students access to leading experts in public health from across the country. By working with a network we will be able to offer a comprehensive range of courses in a flexible mode of delivery. This flexibility will allow non-traditional students who normally would have trouble accessing the appropriate training an opportunity to expand their public health skills and put what they learn into immediate practice.”