Research on Impact of COVID-19 on Rural Communities

16th April 2020

As we enter the third week of UK lockdown, we are seeing questions being raised about the current and potential future impacts of COVID-19 on our rural communities.

The Rural Services Network has brought together some examples of how rural communities in England are “working together” to mitigate the negative impacts and we know that similar initiatives are taking place throughout rural Scotland: https://rsnonline.org.uk/covid-19-rural-communities-pulling-together

Scottish Rural Action have pulled together some sources of support pertinent to those of us in rural Scotland: https://www.sra.scot/covid-19-information/

There are several emerging sources of funding available for projects looking to understand and/or mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.

SRHP members recently submitted an application for research funding to the Chief Scientists Office for a programme of research led by UHI Division of Rural Health and Wellbeing in partnership with the James Hutton Institute, SCVO, VHS, Support in Mind Scotland and the National Rural Mental Health Forum. If funded, this work will aim to examine the impact of COVID-19 and potential for mitigating actions in several areas including:

  • The mental health and wellbeing of front-line NHS staff;
  • Adolescent mental health;
  • People living with long-term conditions;
  • Third sector organisations.

There are several other areas pertinent to rural communities for which information is lacking on the current and potential future impacts of COVID-19. In particular:

  • Impacts in rural populations with particularly high proportions of elderly residents; including the impact on local community activities, economic resilience and social connections in areas where older people are heavily relied upon to provide childcare and volunteering.
  • The impact on rural small businesses and the self-employed.
  • Impacts on rural residents who have had health and/or care services disrupted.
  • Implications of broadband capacity (or lack of it) for rural communities and individuals during the lockdown.
  • The social and economic impacts of rural residents with COVID-19 having to relocate to urban centres for treatment and/or end of life care.
  • The impacts on rural healthcare professionals, particularly those working in isolation.
  • The longer-term effects of social distancing and the COVID-19 pandemic for rural communities; including how community volunteering and neighbourliness may be affected.

We are keen to hear from SRHP members who may be interested in partnering to collect or share information on these themes. We may be able to support each other by pooling resources or data. Applications for funding are also more likely to succeed if they are collaborative in nature.

Please get in touch srhp@uhi.ac.uk

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