Rural Outreach Program
Description of Program
What is the intervention/program/project?
CAANS runs an sexually transmitted and blood borne infection (STBBI) outreach/education program that operates in Central Alberta . The rural outreach program runs on and off first nations reserve communities in the West Country where the outreach educator spends up to 12 hours once per week discussing health topics with individuals and professionals, as well as attending special events like health fairs and pow wows. The outreach educator has on-reserve office hours, but also participates in culturally based activities such as cooking, beading, elders’ circles and mom’s groups. The most important component of the program is relationship-building and the outreach educator engages people in conversations about general health, sexual health and drug use. The outreach educator provides a safe and confidential space for individuals to talk about these topics. Harm reduction supplies, including safer sex, safer injecting and safer inhalation supplies are available (discreetly) through the outreach educator.
What is the goal/objective of the intervention/program/project?
The goal of the rural outreach program is to educate and prevent the spread of STBBI’s through strategies that promote safer sex, safer drug use, healthier relationships, negotiation skills and approaches to effective communication. CAANS works within Aboriginal communities to open up conversations in a safe and comfortable environment.
Why was the intervention/program/project originally developed?
Community members and funders expressed a need for CAANS to focus more on Aboriginal communities in its HIV and harm reduction programming. The rural outreach program developed organically. Through trial and error, the rural outreach program has determined the best approach is to allow the facilitation of information exchange using culturally-based traditions and means of conversing, rather than typical professional education methods. The integration of the outreach worker into the daily activities of reserve life have proven to allow the presence of an outside educator to transfer information in a means respectful of Aboriginal tradition.
CAANS began by becoming part of inter-agency meetings and a drug coalition. It was then asked to visit the O’Chiese First Nations. Next, CAANS began providing office hours in the O’Chiese health unit. It slowly developed conversations and relationships with people through engaging in activities together.
How was the intervention/program/project developed?
The program developed using the “Traditional Model”: Things are supposed to unfold how they will. If people want to listen, then they will. It is okay when a plan does not unfold the way you would like in a given situation.
OrganizationCentral Alberta AIDS Network Society (CAANS)
- Harm reduction
- Harm reduction
- Indigenous peoples
- Service providers
The Rural Outreach Program has both mobile and virtual components. CAANS is based in Red Deer with a catchment area of Central Alberta (Alberta Health Services, Central Zone). This interview is focused on the work done in the West Country, which includes Rocky Mountain House, O’Chiese First Nations and Maskwacis First Nation.Facebook and text messaging seems to be the avenue that CAANS can reach professional and non-professional individuals on a regular basis. Twitter is not widely used in these areas.
Project ResourcesThere are currently no resources associated with the rural outreach program.
Resources for Program
- Funding for a vehicle, fuel and maintenance.
- Staff time.
- A staff member that is understanding of Aboriginal cultures, who can lead from behind, who doesn’t overstep their role, and has strong listening skills.
- A vehicle to travel, especially in the winter, on gravel roads that are in poor condition.
- Fuel for the vehicle.
- Harm reduction supplies.
Process monitoring or evaluation
The rural outreach has not been specifically evaluated. However, data is collected through data collection forms and a log book of activities written by the outreach educator and client feedback. A partnership survey was conducted with the partners in rural areas. Evidence of program effectiveness is found in the number of relationships built with agencies and individuals over the course of the program.
Evaluation TermsAudience/client feedback and satisfaction, Process monitoring or evaluation
- The outreach educator goes into communities knowing that they are outsiders and try to ask what they can do for the community as opposed to what the community needs to learn.
- Relationships take a long time to develop. It took 5 months of office hours in O’Chiese before the first in-depth conversation took place. You cannot force information on people that are not familiar with the worker. It takes time for this trust to develop.
- It is essential to have someone from outside the community to provide confidential/anonymous conversations, advice, supplies and support, who is not associated with the health unit and who will not put the conversations on file.
- The importance of discreet conversations and distribution of harm reduction supplies. However, condoms often are a good starting point for a laugh and conversation. (We label them with puns on the One brand of condoms so both side of the package is interesting).
- Activity-based outreach (i.e., cooking, karaoke, and beading) is beneficial for minimizing power dynamic between ‘professional’ and community members, for getting to know individuals and engaging them in conversations about life that often eventually turn into conversations about health. Go outside the box to create opportunities for interactions.
- If you do not know, ask. It is important to learn about Aboriginal customs/traditions due to the impact that customs/traditions have on health programming and activities.
- The importance of going into community in a relaxed state of mind.
- Education does not always happen in a group setting/workshop. It is essential to broaden our definition of health outcomes.
- The importance of consistency in the person who visits rural/remote communities. It is beneficial for the outreach educator to keep a log book with people’s names and content that is discussed to re-read prior to returning to the community.
- Facebook is useful for keeping in touch and for maintaining consistency between physical visits to the community.
- The biggest challenge is securing funding to do rural outreach. Often traditional ways of doing HIV education do not work the same with Aboriginal populations.
- Another major challenge has been learning to do things differently. For example, even though there is a designated day for going into O’Chiese, CAANS will get invited to ceremonies and events that need to be attended because it is an honour to be invited.
- If mistakes are made in the community, they need to be repaired right away.