Why are we doing this research?
Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, many families living in rural and northern parts of BC and raising young children with support needs, often faced social, economic and geographical barriers to accessing a wide-range of information, supports and services for their children’s early health, development and well-being. This longstanding lack of equitable access can increase the risk of rural and northern children with diverse abilities and/or complex health conditions having poorer early health and developmental outcomes and life opportunities compared to children living in closer proximity to urban centres. Given the importance of the early years, this ‘inequity from the start’ can have lifelong consequences on families and children’s quality of life and children’s life chances.
While the pandemic has shone a light on the untapped potential for information and communication technologies (apps, cell phones, Facebook, teleconference platforms such as Zoom etc.) to be used as long-term, additional ways for parents to access early children’s health and development information and connect with service providers – policies and practices related to this additional form of access have yet to be informed by the lived experiences, views and preferences of rural and northern families, service providers and agency leaders.
What is the purpose of this research?
‘Community Voices on Tapping into Tech’ is a two-year (2021-2023), province-wide, community-driven research project aimed at improving rural and northern families’ equitable access to early child development (ECD) and health resources and services by using information and communication technologies as long-term, optional modes of service delivery in addition to in-person supports, programs and services.
With a newly formed, ‘Tapping into Tech Community Council’, this project is exploring how information and communication technologies (including apps, texting/messaging, Facebook, videoconferencing, etc.) can be used after the pandemic as long-term, alternative ways for urban and northern families to have easier and timely access to ECD and child health information and connect with services, in addition to in-person options. A priority for this project is to ensure that any related policy and practice changes are informed by and responsive to the priorities and preferences of Indigenous, non-Indigenous and newcomer families who for various reasons can find the ECD system in BC hard to reach.
This two-year, participatory action research project has the potential to make a large and lasting impact on the provincial early child development (ECD) system by mobilizing community knowledge(s) to tailor information and communication technologies in response to the lived realities, preferences and resources of northern and rural families and ECD agencies.
How are we doing this research?
Through community-based, participatory action-research methods, we are connecting with rural and northern Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit and Métis), non-Indigenous and newcomer parents/guardians, children and early child development agencies, in order to understand their views, preferences and needs on using information and communication technologies to support infants and young children’s optimal health, development and well-being and reduce the burden on rural and northern parents/guardians of only having in-person supports and services.
Decisions about how we do this research is guided by a newly formed ‘Tapping into Tech Community Council’ that includes community and university researchers. The Council will collaborate on recruitment materials and strategies, data collection tools, knowledge mobilization and actions in order to ensure that the research process and community-generated knowledge(s) are inclusive, respectful and beneficial for rural and northern families and communities and advances equity in the early child development system in BC.
See ‘About Us‘ for further information about our Council members.
Who is funding this research?
The ‘Tapping into Tech Community Council’ is extremely grateful that this project is being funded by a 2-year Vancouver Foundation Participatory Action Research grant.