Action Santé Outaouais turns focus to rural healthcare

Members of Action Santé at its annual general meeting, Director Mathieu Charbonneau (right).

Greg Newing

OUTAOUAIS – Action Santé Outaouais (ASO), a local health rights advocacy organization, highlighted the importance of promoting access to healthcare in rural areas during its annual general meeting, June 6. ASO seeks to partner with more Pontiac-based organizations to better engage residents across the four MRCs in an analysis of the state of healthcare in the Outaouais and the identification of common needs.

Since its inception in the 1970s, ASO has advocated for the right to free and equal access to healthcare, particularly among vulnerable populations, through promoting education and citizen involvement in health governance. After more than 50 years of activity, the organization recently broadened its aims based on a more holistic understanding of health.  “Health isn’t only about [preventing] disease and accessing treatment. For the past four years, we’ve focused more on the social determinants of health and the interconnection of the rights to health, income security, housing, and women’s rights,” said Action Santé’s Director Mathieu Charbonneau.

ASO events in the past year addressed universal access to health services and the relationship between climate and health promoting public education and facilitating citizen involvement in its governance and policy making through panels and workshops. “ASO events strive to make discussions about healthcare accessible and [inclusive]. Unfortunately, health systems often preclude or impede citizen participation due to their complex and technical nature. The strongest health systems are in places where there’s strong citizen participation and the governance of health is democratized,” said Charbonneau.

 In its 2023-2024 action plan, ASO will focus on establishing more partnerships in rural communities. The organization is currently forming a permanent rural healthcare committee and will also host a hybrid public event on rural healthcare in all four of the region’s MRCs in November. This initiative arose from the need to include the unique perspective of residents living in rural areas in an analysis of healthcare in the region.

“Over the past few years, Action Santé recognized it was focusing too much on urban areas in Gatineau.  If we want things to improve across the whole region, we need to identify common goals, needs and demands to bring to the provincial government regarding access to healthcare and well-being,” concluded Charbonneau.