SPHERU Stories

We are a Rural Province and our Research is Rural

A reflection by Dr. Nuelle Novik.

Dr. Nuelle Novik’s research focuses on the social determinants of health and healthy equity, rural and remote practice in health and social services, aging and seniors, mental health, community-based research, palliative care and bereavement.

You always want to ensure that voices are being heard and represented in your research.

One of the reasons that I feel so fortunate to be able to do this research with SPHERU is that, regardless of the location, we get to engage in authentic community-based researchresearch that is really driven by community members. This way of doing this research places importance on relationships and connections.

One of the unique experiences of engaging with rural communities is that building and maintaining relationships can be a challenge because of geography.

Right now, of course, we’re in the middle of a worldwide pandemic and that creates all kinds of challenges, because you can’t travel to meet with people. However, that is one of the challenges even under typical circumstances. The province of Saskatchewan covers a large landmass, and so you really have to plan. If you’re going to work authentically with communities and conduct this kind of research, you have to be there. You have to be visible. You have to be able to build and maintain those relationships. 

When you’re looking at this kind of research, it’s a huge commitment in terms of time.

It’s one of the reasons I think there isn’t as much research being conducted that focuses on rural areasbecause it’s difficult, it’s challenging. As someone who is connected to rural communities, and continues to be connected to rural communities, it’s one of the things that is the biggest source of frustration for people who live in rural areas. The fact that they don’t feel as though their voice is being heard. They are always the ones who have to travel to be able to participate and have their voice heard.

I’m from rural areas myself and my parents, who are older adults, continue to live out on the farm.

They experience a number of the challenges that form the basis of what we’re focusing the roots of our research upon. The rural roots of Saskatchewan are strong. I mean, you’re hard pressed to find someone who lives in an urban center that doesn’t have some familial or relational type of connection to the rural parts of this province. They aren’t buying into the idea that everyone needs to move to the city, and neither are we.

Learn more about Dr. Novik and her Aging in Place research at SPHERU.

Seniors are one of the fastest growing population groups in Saskatchewan, which makes understanding their health needs of vital importance. Rural and northern communities in Canada are facing escalating challenges in meeting the health care needs of an aging non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal population. Using population health intervention research, SPHERU researchers are working to identify effective interventions at the policy, community, and kin levels that support healthy aging in place for both non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal seniors.