Rural Site Visits Project

In British Columbia, challenges in accessing health services, and inequities resulting from geographical isolation and limited resources are not well understood. Rural grassroots community members often lack any connection to health policymakers. Through the Rural Site Visits Project, the Rural Coordination Centre of BC (RCCbc) connects with, and amplifies the voices of, all 204 Rural Subsidiary Agreement communities in the province. A Rural Site Visits team of rural physicians and RCCbc staff meet with community healthcare providers and administrators, First Nations bands, local leadership, community health

organizations, first responders, and educators to hear and understand their perspectives on healthcare delivery. The Site Visits team then feeds this information back to the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues to inform and improve health policy and program development. The Rural Site Visits team maintains relationships with community members by connecting them with others in the network, providing information and resources, and sharing their rural health innovations with other rural communities that have similar needs.  

Our Achievements

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Incorporated Indigenous ways of knowing and being into our work

To enhance meaningful engagement, including connection and reciprocity, with First Nations communities during our visits, the Site Visits team adapted its research methodology to embody Two-eyed Seeing. This approach to inquiry and solutions, developed by Mi’kmaq Elder, Albert Marshall, views the world through an Indigenous lens with one eye (perspective), and a Western lens with the other eye, for the benefit of all. Additional Indigenous ways of knowing and being were incorporated into the project through our collaboration with an Indigenous Research Consultant from Carrier Sekani Family Services, who provided our team with train-the-trainer modules on First Nations engagement practices. We used these learnings to enhance cultural safety, healing, and wellness supports in all aspects of our project.  

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Published research and spread awareness of rural health needs

The Site Visits team published its first research paper in the British Medical Journal Open, which outlines its community engagement process, and highlights the project’s three overarching themes: relationships, autonomy, and change over time. The team’s methodology appears to be a world-first for gathering a large, comprehensive volume of data, and for transforming this vast data into useful feedback for policymakers. The paper had over 4800 downloads and was reported by CBC Daybreak North and Global News. Infographics for participants and health partner stakeholders were developed and presented at conferences.   

In collaboration with a First Nations elder, Rural Site Visits also finalized its second research paper on cultural safety and racism in rural British Columbia communities, which will be submitted to the British Columbia Medical Journal. This paper used an Indigenous methodology to combine a strengths-based, positive-change approach to support knowledge-making and solution-finding in collaboration with rural communities. 

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Built stronger relationships with rural community members

The Rural Site Visits team consulted with rural British Columbia community members to further contextualize stories about their rural health innovations on our Rural Health Innovations Inventory. The consultation process resulted in the development of deeper, reciprocal relationships. For example, showcasing Simpcw First Nation’s community consultation process on RCCbc’s Innovations Inventory led to an invitation for the team to attend Simpcw’s annual health planning retreat on Secwepemc Nation, and the co-creation of a documentary about their health program. Site Visits team members were also invited to share information about RCCbc at an ongoing community event in Boswell that combines health education and community soup making.  

Making a Difference

Working with an Indigenous research consultant this past year to incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing and being into the Rural Site Visits project has been immensely instructive for the team.  

“Through the progression of learning and relationship-building with the consultant, we’ve shown each other kindness, empathy, and patience,” says Krystal Wong, who coordinates the Rural Site Visits Program. “It wasn’t the linear process that our project timelines typically follow—and, at times, it was difficult to comprehend working in this way.” 

But that discomfort paid off and resulted in a more enlightened team that works in a culturally safe way.  

And after the team worked with the Indigenous consultant to redevelop and co-create the project’s processes and key documents, the team was heartened when she said: “I’d like to mention that the work and thoughtfulness put into these documents brought tears of happiness to my eyes. I feel it is so important that doing right the first time is key to success.” 

Team Members

Dr. Danette Dawkin
Dr. Danette Dawkin
Dr. Stuart Johnston
Dr. Stuart Johnston
Krystal Wong

Krystal Wong

Project Coordinator

Kassia Skolski

Kassia Skolski

Former Project Coordinator

Robyn Ellsworth

Robyn Ellsworth

Administrative Assistant, Rural Research

Tracey DeLeeuw

Tracey DeLeeuw

Administrative Assistant, Rural Research

Jason Curran

Jason Curran

Manager, Rural Research & Physician Engagement

Erika Belanger

Erika Belanger

Project Coordinator & Data Analyst

Jordan Christmas

Jordan Christmas

Former Finance & Administrative Coordinator