The True North: Uncovering the Complex Roots of Rural and Remote Living

Jan. 1, 2015 in Articles

Northern BC’s wild landscape is incredible; the vast terrain astounds the senses with a calming presence of peace and inspiration. Northern BC is an oasis of wildlife, free from the hustle and bustle of the southern urban regions. While this can be seen as a retreat from the big city lifestyle, there are also numerous challenges that residents face when it comes to addressing personal health and community well-being.

While health services are essential to tend to our ailments, research has shown that preventative, upstream approaches are more effective than reactive, downstream approaches in addressing health and well-being. It is known that BC’s northern residents have greater challenges and barriers to good health than any other region in BC. At the same time, these challenges are giving Northern Health an opportunity to demonstrate how to address the root causes to have a positive influence on social, economic and environmental outcomes in Northern BC.

 

Source: Statistics Canada (2013) 1, 2, 3, 4

BC’s Great North is faced with many diverse challenges: the boom-bust cycle of various industries; difficulty retaining young adults as they see other opportunities in urban areas; limited access to provincial health and social services, supports and resources; a lack of culturally appropriate assistance; and a need to establish strong local food systems. These are only a few obstacles to overcome in order to achieve better outcomes in the northern rural and remote locations.

While the North is rife with barriers to good health, numerous actions have been taken and innovative community-based solutions are being developed. The following are just a few examples of initiatives taking place in BC’s northern communities:

Finalized in April 2014, the Northern First Nations Health and Wellness Plan was developed by the Northern First Nations Health Partnership Committee (a partnership among Northern Health, the Northern Regional Health Caucus, and the First Nations Health Authority). With over one third of BC’s registered First Nations represented in the north, it became imperative that a plan  be developed to ensure culturally responsive services, mutual respect and inclusive participation in all processes, and strong support for collaborative, community-driven, Nation-based programs.  

Many northern communities are faced with the challenge of youth out-migration and an aging baby boomer population. Recognizing this challenge, the Fraser Basin Council and the BC Rural Network have supported bright solutions through Project ComeBack. Through the pilot program, five communities received funding, including the City of Williams Lake, Village of Chase, Smithers District Chamber of Commerce, Regional District of Mount Waddington, and the Village of Kaslo. Over two years, youth and young adults were engaged in a process to find out how to retain young adults in these rural and remote communities.

The Greater Terrace Agricultural Area Plan was created to address the decline in agricultural production, increase economic activity, and improve food security in the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine and the expanding area. Research was undertaken to consult and engage residents within the Greater Terrace region in the development of the Plan, which resulted in a thorough set of recommendations to improve local food production.

Northern BC’s rural and remote communities face some difficult circumstances, but are creating unique strategies to tackle the key priorities related to residents’ health and well-being. New multi-sectoral partnerships are forging while old ones are being strengthened, creative solutions are arising, and northern communities have banded together to bring positive change.

Want to learn more?

We are celebrating our fifth year of FREE Citizen Series Webinars, which focuses specifically on the learning needs of northern, rural and remote communities. 

Check our Events page for upcoming webinars and reserve your spot in the webinar and join the discussion!

Credit: By Michelle Sandsmark