Rural Health Research in the CIHR

by Raymond Pong | Oct 01, 1999


The inauguration of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) on April 1, 2000 will usher in a new era in health research in Canada. Not only will there be more resources to support and expand health research, there will also be a new way of thinking about health research and its roles. More specifically, the CIHR is interested in supporting health research that integrates different disciplines and research sectors, that is of high calibre and that can contribute to improving the health and well-being of Canadians. Undoubtedly, the CIHR will have some difficult decisions to make. In particular, it will have to decide what kinds of health research it will support and in what form.

The Centre for Rural and Northern Health Research at Laurentian University and Lakehead University, in collaboration with the University of Northern British Columbia, has been commissioned by the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to prepare a position paper, the purpose of which is to examine the role of rural health research in the CIHR and how the CIHR can support rural health research in this country. This is one of about 20 position papers on various aspects of health research commissioned by the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

In the following sections, we explain what rural Canada is and why rural health research is important and needs to be supported by the CIHR. We believe there are good reasons to regard rural health as a distinct area of enquiry that requires dedicated attention and resources, best achieved through a separate institute. At the same time, we realize that rural health research, as an integrative and well coordinated research enterprise, involving many disciplines, linking the four sectors of research and bridging basic and applied research, is a fairly new venture. Thus, we propose a series of strategies and steps to develop and support a new way of doing rural health research under the CIHR. Furthermore, realizing that a stand-alone Institute for Rural Health Research may not be feasible at this time due to many competing demands, we discuss some alternative approaches that the CIHR Interim Governing Council may wish to consider.

Although this position paper is prepared by the Centre for Rural and Northern Health Research, in collaboration with the University of Northern British Columbia, it is not about any particular research centre, academic program or university. Instead, we strive to speak on behalf of the rural health research community in Canada. As part of the research process, members of the research team 2 contacted many individuals throughout the country and in selected foreign countries, who were experts in rural health and/or rural health research. A list of the individuals contacted or consulted in relation to this project can be found in Appendix 2. Because of the very short period of time in which we had to complete the project and because the study was conducted over the summer months, it was not possible for us to contact more people. However, we believe we have spoken to a reasonably representative group of individuals who are extremely knowledgeable about rural health and/or rural health research issues. This position paper has benefitted greatly from their input and interest.