By: Amanda Mongeon
The lecture hosted this month by Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health (CERH) brought the small towns in Northern Ontario to a rural-interested audience.
As someone who has lived and worked in rural Northern Ontario for most of my life, these are my people. I recognize how unique it is to have a resource like Gateway CERH to create space for such conversations.
I was joined by Karrie Lepoudre, Senior Manager-Emergency Management Ontario, and Adam Zuback, Regional Operations Manager-North, both from the Canadian Red Cross, and Wendy Brunetta, Fort Frances Councillor and member of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA).
The lecture began with some background:
No matter how many levels of government we have, health plays out at the local level, where people live. It’s shaped at many levels in this model (see image below) and we can all contribute to fostering healthy local communities.
When we think about supporting health in rural communities, we may need different approaches than what we’d use in cities (this is important, because most policies are written by people living in cities). We need to work together across sectors to support health, and this includes doing so through the phases of emergency management.
Then, I provided an overview of my doctoral research and shared preliminary findings.
I am part of a two-year research project led by Dr. Leith Deacon from University of Guelph in collaboration with University of Toronto’s Dr. Kate Mulligan and funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). In this project, we are exploring ways to enhance emergency management among rural communities in Northern Ontario.
So far, the research is highlighting opportunities to build clarity around the emergency management cycle (see image below), around roles. It reminds us all to think about rural communities within a much larger context, the need to support them in locally appropriate ways, and not to forget the importance of trusting relationships.
Panelists also provided information about their experiences with emergency management in Northern Ontario and answered questions from the audience. Some highlights include:
The Canadian Red Cross works with others to help people in times of need and supports them in strengthening resilience. They can link volunteers and professionals around both major and minor disasters, and they do both risk reduction and response type work. Learn more here: https://www.redcross.ca/in-your-community/ontario.
Emergencies are happening more often, lasting longer, compounding, and becoming more complex. They can dominate municipal leaders’ attention, strain municipal resources and impact the mental health of those who are responding—the helpers.
Audience members asked some great questions, and I regretted not having more time; these questions have helped me consider new ideas to explore. Upon reflection, I also wanted to ask the panelists more, like this question, posed here for those who might like to comment below.
What is your greatest wish to enhance emergency management in Northern Ontario?
Anyone who missed the lecture can watch it online, and I invite you to contact me if you want to discuss these ideas further. I can be reached at amongeon(at)uoguelph.ca, and you can learn more about this research project at https://sustainablecommunityplanning.com/EnablingStructures. '
Watch this lecture now on the Gateway CERH YouTube Channel:
Gateway CERH has a full library of lectures and information about the upcoming presentation that can be found on our website: https://www.gatewayruralhealth.ca/lectureseries
Or watch all past lecture online on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@GatewayCERH/videos
About Amanda Mongeon
Amanda is a PhD candidate in the University of Guelph's Rural Studies program where she studies governance for health and wellbeing in rural communities. She is researching the experiences of rural Northern Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic to help enhance response to future emergencies. Amanda also puts her learning to practice as Manager of Community Health at Timiskaming Health Unit where she has worked since 2006. Originally from Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Amanda now lives in Temiskaming Shores.
Emergency Management Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General (2021). Emergency Management Framework for Ontario
McLeroy, K. R., Bibeau, D., Steckler, A., & Glanz, K. (1988). An Ecological Perspective on Health Promotion Programs. Health Education Quarterly, 15(4), 351-377.