WiSAR Lab Awarded €1.4 million to Address Rural Health Inequalities

L-R, Dr. Karla Muñoz Esquivel, Dr Nick Timmons, WiSAR Lab, ATU

Project Tech2Heal bridges technology and care to empower rural workforces, address health disparities, and improve patient outcomes.

WiSAR Lab at Atlantic Technological University (ATU) Donegal is delighted to announce €1.4 million in funding in the framework of the 4th Call of the Interreg Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme (NPA) 2021-2027.

The Tech2Heal project, coordinated by WiSAR, brings together five European partners in a multidisciplinary team of technicians, clinicians, and academia, including the WiSAR Lab at ATU (the lead partner), the University of Oulu in Finland, the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, the Norwegian Centre for E-health Research and Centre for Rural Medicine Region Västerbotten, Sweden.

Rural Workforce Retention

Access to healthcare services is critical for inclusive labour force participation; however, rural patients face significant barriers to timely medical care leading to increased workplace absenteeism and early retirement.

The main objective of the Tech2Heal project is to help employees and self-employees in peripheral areas live healthier for longer by proposing suitable changes to work and health policies. Project stakeholders include reindeer herders, fishermen, farmers, and healthcare workers who face several working and environmental challenges.

To achieve this, the project team will use a novel approach that combines both qualitative and quantitative research methods with cutting-edge technology to monitor work-life balance. Following this, a series of innovative technology pilots will be implemented to validate solutions.

Empowering Rural Communities

Principal investigator of the WiSAR Lab, Dr Karla Muñoz Esquivel said, “Rural communities frequently face many difficulties in accessing the healthcare they require, such as lengthy travel times to facilities and physicians. Such obstacles can lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment, ultimately forcing many people out of the workforce prematurely.”

“Through Tech2Heal we can help equip remote populations with the digital tools to improve their health and well-being to live and work for longer, helping to build their sense of security and independence.”

WiSAR Director, Dr Nick Timmons said, “WiSAR Lab at ATU is delighted to win this significant Interreg NPA funding for the Tech2Heal project. Health monitoring has been a key research focus at WiSAR for several years, and this project will build upon our strong competency in this area.”

“Significant research gaps remain in our understanding of what healthcare is available in different areas, how patients are affected, and how services could better serve the health needs of rural and island areas. Projects like Tech2Heal have the potential to make a significant impact in addressing these healthcare inequalities and can play a vital part in our ongoing work in this field.”

The Tech2Heal project will commence later this year and run for 36 months.