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Vol 39  No 13
Apr. 26, 2007


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Expanded health education for
non-traditional students
by Sharon Gray


Dr. Rick Audas is the principal investigator at Memorial in a research partnership titled Building Capacity for Aboriginal and Rural Health Education. (Photo by HSIMS)

Memorial’s Division of Community Health and Humanities is part of a new initiative to expand educational opportunities in public health for student in rural, remote and aboriginal communities.

Federal funding of up to $400,000 was announced earlier this month for the project Building Capacity for Aboriginal and Rural Health Education. The partners involved are Memorial University, the University of Northern British Columbia, the University of Saskatchewan, Lakehead University and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.

“We see this collaboration as an important initiative in the Division of Community Health and Humanities in terms of reaching our mandate for expanding public health capacity throughout the province,” said Dr. Rick Audas, principal investigator at Memorial in this partnership.

“It’s been a long-standing objective of our division to offer tailored programming to students in rural, remote and aboriginal communities and we believe this is a significant step forward in terms of meeting this objective”

Dr. Audas said the new initiative will allow public health educators at Memorial to tap into best practice elsewhere in terms of improving public health. “It will give our students access to leading experts in public health from across the country. By working with a network we will be able to offer a comprehensive range of courses in a flexible mode of delivery. This flexibility will allow non-traditional students – who normally would have trouble accessing the appropriate training – an opportunity to expand their public health skills and put what they learn into immediate practice.”

Memorial president Dr. Axel Meisen said he is pleased that Memorial is involved in this initiative. “It’s a good example of how partnerships are able to accomplish what would not be possible by any one organization. All the partners have mandates that include health programming for and with aboriginal, northern and rural communities. Pooling our expertise in rural and aboriginal health education will build public health capacity in rural Canada, and the investment from the Government of Canada will enable this to happen.”

Dr. Audas noted that individually each of the partners have strengths in specific areas of public health education for rural and northern areas, and aboriginal communities. “All the partners deliver programs within their regions at the undergraduate and graduate level, both for-credit and not-for-credit, and in a variety of formats such as face-to-face, web-based, audio and videoconferenced. By collaborating, the capacity of all the partners to deliver a broader scope of educational programming for a greater number of Canadian communities is enhanced.”

Discussion among the partners has already resulted in developing a vision for future collaboration to assist in building the capacity for populations in rural, remote and aboriginal communities to improve their own health. Dr. Audas said this vision leads directly to the overall objective of this initiative to prevent and respond to public health challenges by exposing greater numbers of learners to basic and advanced training and education in public health, specifically oriented to the needs within their communities.

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