This project is called Natural Resource Depletion and Health. It's a collaboration between Memorial University and community groups. True to its name, the purpose of the project is to see how the health of people in coastal communities has been affected by the fishery crisis since the end of TAGS. The project will also look at communities in Cape Breton where the mines have closed to compare the impacts of single industry towns- depletion of resources (mining, fishing) on personal and community health.
The project is interested in community variables as well as in health matters because the two are linked. Many say that to have health in the community you need a good economy. On the other hand if you don't have a healthy population (workforce) how can you have a healthy economy. Health affects the community - for instance, if children are in worse health, the problems will show up in the schools and elsewhere in the community. If the people and community are healthy, they have the ability to deal with tough times, utilize the resources around them, gain energy together and move on. There are many community variables which affect health, depending on how well the community copes with adversity - we call this community resiliency. So as well as charting health statistics, the project wants to look at the communities, see by what measures they are addressing their difficulties and in general learn what factors which promote community resiliency, the ability to bounce back from adversity. Our study takes us into a variety of communities, some more heavily dependent upon the fishery than others. Communities in the study are Fogo Island, Trepassey, the headlands of Bonavista, and the isthmus of Avalon. In Cape Breton, New Waterford will be the study community.
Some members of the study team are meeting with the community members of the various communities to let them know of the project objectives, see how they can be involved and work together to use the information to foster change, learning and development.
This isn't just an academic exercise - it's also an example of action research. Certainly we'll be gathering statistics, interviewing members of communities and representatives of community organizations and all the other usual data-gathering exercises. In this project we want not only to understand the situations that communities encounter but also to play a part in changing those situations. Members of the community will be involved in the data collection process and will be part of the final outcomes, devising a process to return the knowledge that will be gained from the project to the communities from which it came. Through a series of forums and community meetings we'll try, along with the communities, to analyse the situations that they face and to devise strategies better to cope with adversity.