Grand Bend, ON: The Connected Rural Communities Collaborative (CRCC) is seeking input from the public about their experiences with social isolation. The CRCC received a $75,000 Ontario Trillium Foundation grant to work on reducing social isolation and strengthen social inclusion, one of the determinants of health.

Dr. David Williams, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, stated in his recent annual report to the Ontario government, “Being socially connected to family, friends and our communities — having a sense of belonging — is important to our wellbeing. People who are connected are happier. They enjoy better health and use fewer health services. They are more resilient in the face of adversity, and they live longer.”

The CRCC has developed a survey to learn about people’s sense of belonging and social inclusion, connection to their community, the programs and services they need and want, and the barriers that prevent them from feeling included. The survey can be taken online at www.gbachc.ca/connected-rural-communities. The CRCC is hoping to collect 500 surveys from respondents in the municipalities of Lambton Shores, South Huron, Bluewater and North Middlesex.
In-person interviews will also help us to find out more about people’s stories and how to improve connections and inclusion in this area.  People experiencing social isolation are encouraged to contact Matthew Maynard, Community Developer, at mmaynard@gbchc.comor call him at 519-262-3459 ext. 213 to schedule an interview. Each person interviewed will receive a $25 grocery gift card for their time.

A comprehensive list of existing programs, services and activities is being collected and mapped to the area.  This asset list will help to determine if there are gaps in opportunities for people to feel included in their community.  The CRCC would like to hear from everyone who offers a program, service or activity to the public. Go to www.gbachc.ca/connected-rural-communites and click on the “Add My Service to the Community Asset Map” button.

In the fall of 2019, Matthew Maynard, will facilitate community gatherings to present the findings of the surveys, interviews and asset mapping work. Together with the community, decisions can then be made about what is needed to reduce social isolation, strengthen social inclusion and improve the health outcomes for people living in the area.