The complex nature of transportation as a key determinant of health in primary and community care restructuring initiatives in rural Canada

Elsevier, Journal of Aging Studies, Volume 60, March 2022
Mirza N.A., Hulko W.
It is well recognized that transportation is a barrier to health-care access for rural-dwelling residents, particularly older adults. Health-care restructuring initiatives seldom take into consideration the complexity of transportation, which acts as a barrier to appropriate and timely access to health-care services for older adults in rural communities. This article presents findings of a qualitative research study that explored the complex nature of transportation challenges that rural-dwelling older adults experience in Western Canada when trying to access primary and community care services. Data were derived from a larger study of service user views on a health-care restructuring initiative intended to facilitate aging-in-place. We conducted 15 focus groups and 9 interviews with a diverse sample of 83 older adults living in one urban centre and nine rural and small rural towns in British Columbia (BC)’s interior. We used content analysis to determine codes and derive themes. Study findings showed that transportation was a top priority for improving primary and community care. Older adult participants identified a range of transportation challenges in trying to get to healthcare services and care providers getting to them. Transportation was a social determinant of health (SDOH) for all participants, regardless of whether they lived in the urban centre or in a rural or small rural town. Our study provides more evidence to support that transportation is a key SDOH for rural-dwelling older adults. As such, transportation should be specifically addressed in health-care restructuring initiatives that aim to support aging-in-place. Service providers need to advocate for system-wide solutions such as integrating transportation into the health-care system, while it is imperative that decision-makers act on these solutions.