Assessing Climate Change Vulnerabilities of Ontario's Rural Populations

  •  Fatih Sekercioglu    
  •  Daniel I Pirrie    
  •  Yan Zheng    
  •  Aimen Azfar    


Climate change causes considerable challenges for both urban and rural communities. Our study aimed at enhancing the understanding of climate change effects on rural populations. The study was promoted in Middlesex County library locations and on Middlesex County’s social media accounts; all residents of Middlesex County were eligible to participate. Through this method of convenience sampling, we successfully recruited 40 rural residents and conducted five focus group sessions. The study was conducted in Middlesex County, in southern Ontario, Canada, which provided a good representation of southern Ontario's rural communities. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the data collected in focus group discussions. Focus group discussions yielded four main themes and provided valuable insights on several climate change-related topics. The four identified themes are: frequent extreme weather events, access to food and safe drinking water, protection from vector-borne diseases, and living in a rural community. Our results indicate key parameters to address the climate change issues for rural residents and lead to a series of recommendations to revamp climate change policy at local, provincial, and federal levels. Study Participants commented on the need for adaptation skills concerning the physical and mental health aspects of increased indoor activity (avoiding natural spaces/pollution). This could also be an indicator/opportunity for future health programming and funding to support new realities. Future research is needed to develop effective local solutions with collaboration among government, business sectors, and rural residents.

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