Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health is committed to showing rural citizens how they can control their health and stay out of the hospital.
In 2004, Dr. Claudio Munoz, a research associate at the Stroke Prevention Clinic in London, Ontario, was consulting with a patient about the importance of exercise, diet and other lifestyle factors that affect cardiac health. The patient was a young man for cardiac disease, only in his forties. The discussion evolved. Dr. Munoz shared his belief that new advances in medicine will come more often from research at the community level, especially research on prevention and better management of chronic diseases. Dr. Munoz added that he hoped to start a research institute to engage primary care health professionals in conducting research relevant to their setting. The research institute would contribute to document best practices and facilitate adoption of new knowledge in medicine (knowledge translation research).
The patient was a little surprised. He said he knew someone else that shared the very same dream.
Within a few short days, the patient introduced Dr. Munoz to his sister, Gwen Devereaux. A registered nurse, a health clinic administrator and physician recruiter, Gwen was diligently working towards improving the local access to health care in Huron and Perth counties. Lin Steffler, the mayor of Seaforth, Ontario in 2003, had heard Devereaux’s frustration on rural health issues and agreed: they needed new ways to address the high numbers of rural citizens with serious diseases.
Munoz, Devereaux and Steffler met over many lunches, coffees and emails. They built a team of community members and the vision of a rural health research institute grew. Their goals expanded to encompass the lack of rural health resources, health care providers and other key rural issues. Local business leaders and community groups stepped in with funds to help realize the goals in a 2008 business plan. The McCall MacBain Foundation provided funding for a Scientific Director. The rural health research wheels were in motion.
In 2009, the research teams at the Lawson Health Research Institute and Gateway Rural Health Research Institute joined together to conduct an industry-linked pilot research study in rural Southwestern Ontario. This pilot fell within a larger multicentre international research initiative (ARTEMIS), aimed to determine and implement strategies to reduce the CVCs of type 2 diabetes across a continuum of populations and factors. The pilot started at the community level. The Diabetes and Technology for Increased Activity (DaTA) study assessed the effects of a 12-week lifestyle modification (exercise) and technology intervention for the prevention of diabetes and CVCs and improved well-being, in 24 subjects with prediabetes risk factors, in Huron County, Ontario.
Gateway research studies are gaining attention as the public becomes more aware of rural health issues. They continue to operate at the community level, especially with research on prevention and better management of chronic diseases.