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A researcher at the head of a health network dedicated to Quebec’s rural and remote communities

February 20, 2024 | Julie Robert

Update : February 20, 2024

Professor Cathy Vaillancourt to lead the FQRS-funded Réseau CommunAutés Rurales et Éloignées en Santé.

The new Réseau CommunAutés Rurales et Éloignées en Santé (CARES) will be led by INRS professor Cathy Vaillancourt

Professor Cathy Vaillancourt from the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) will lead the new Réseau CommunAutés Rurales et Éloignées en Santé (CARES), whose mission is to support communities’ well-being by improving health, care, and social services and preventing illness in Quebec’s rural and remote areas.

The CARES network is one of 15 thematic networks that will share a total of $11.5 million granted by the FRQS, in partnership with the Ministère de la Santé et des Services Sociaux. As part of the FRQS thematic network competition (2024–2032), the network will benefit from $4 million over 8 years, with the option to renew until 2032.

CARES, an initiative of the Regroupement intersectoriel de recherche en santé de l’Université du Québec (RISUQ), is the only network that will ensure an ongoing presence in all of Quebec’s rural and remote regions.

Professeure Cathy Vaillancourt

“As soon as you start talking to people on the ground, you see that the need in rural areas is desperate and very real. CARES is looking to better respond to the needs of communities by putting them at the forefront of considerations on the health issues that affect them.”

INRS Professor Cathy Vaillancourt, Director of the CARES and head of the RISUQ.

Health initiatives tailored to rural areas

The CARES team’s program includes the implementation of research, training, and scientific activity approaches anchored in partnerships with community, clinical, and practice environments (such as care, rehabilitation, and mental health facilities). This means that prevention and health promotion, and the management of care conditions to promote sustainable health, will be crucial.

The CommunAutés Rurales et Éloignées en Santé (CARES) network aims to: 

  • Offer a cross-sectoral perspective on the challenges facing rural and remote regions, to promote sustainable health throughout all of Quebec;
  • Reduce inequalities by adapting health promotion, prevention, and early intervention strategies in health care and social services to the realities and living environments of those in rural and remote areas; 
  • Support the leadership, empowerment, and self-determination of people and communities in rural and remote areas to take action on health issues;
  • Mobilize knowledge about health and social services issues and challenges, and develop promotional tools on the determinants of health in rural and remote regions.
Une chercheuse à la tête d’un réseau en santé pour les communautés rurales et éloignées du Québec

The FRQS relies on thematic networks to provide unifying leadership to the province’s scientific community and create greater cohesion around key themes.

Isabelle Delisle

“On behalf of the INRS community, I would like to congratulate Professor Cathy Vaillancourt and her team on this amazing leadership achievement. The CARES network, fruit of RISUQ’s great initiative, is a response to the growing challenges of sustainable health for the rural and remote regions that make up the fabric of Quebec society.”

Isabelle Delisle, Interim Scientific Director of INRS

Interdisciplinarity and collaboration at UQ

Professor Vaillancourt has surrounded herself with an interdisciplinary team from the Université du Québec (UQ) network. By integrating agile working groups that bring together expertise from a variety of research fields, this new entity will enhance synergy between specialists and optimize the resources invested in research. The groups will reflect on new research projects and innovative actions adapted to rural and remote areas.

“With the CARES network, we’re looking to make Quebec a national and international leader in health and social services research for rural and remote areas,” explains Vaillancourt.

The network will be directed by Professor Cathy Vaillancourt, head of the Regroupement intersectoriel de recherche en santé de l’Université du Québec (RISUQ), and co-directed by her colleagues Benoît Barbeau of the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM); Martin Descarreaux of the Université de Trois-Rivières (UQTR), holder of the Chaire de recherche internationale en santé neuromusculosquelettique; and Marie-Hélène Morin of the Université du Québec à Rimouski (UQAR), co-holder of the Chaire interdisciplinaire sur la santé et services sociaux pour les populations rurales (CIRUSSS).