Tofield – According to a recent survey commissioned by Rural Alberta's Development Fund many rural Albertans, especially those in the province's northern communities, feel they are at a disadvantage in key areas such as community capacity and access to education and healthcare when compared to their urban and southern neighbours.
The 1,600 person survey also showed rural Albertans felt they have a comparable quality of life to those in urban centres with rural Alberta being rated as a more attractive place to live and work. However, rural Alberta scored lower in terms of community capacity than urban centres.
Albertans' living in the province's northern regions perceived their communities to be less attractive places to live and work when compared to respondents from central and southern Alberta. Residents of the north also showed less satisfaction with their access to quality health services and education and training opportunities.
Among rural Albertans, residents in central Alberta felt the highest satisfaction with their access to quality health services while residents in southern Alberta had the highest regard for their region as a place to live and visit.
The survey highlights areas of relative strength and need within rural Alberta. RADF will use the baseline information to evaluate the impact of various projects it has funded and to assist in future planning, funding and service delivery decisions.
"We know that specific municipalities and communities have been collecting data on quality of life and other community perceptions. However, I believe this is the first time baseline data has been collected as a provincial picture of Albertans' assessment of their personal well-being and perceptions of community capacity using valid and reliable survey instruments such as these," said Dale Howard, president of Howard Research & Management Consulting, the company that designed and conducted the survey.
Last spring, RADF commissioned Howard Research & Management Consulting to conduct a survey on quality of life (sense of personal well-being), community capacity, access to health services, and availability of education and training opportunities within the province. The survey was done between March and June 2009.
To determine quality of life, survey participants were asked questions from eight categories; emotional well-being, interpersonal relationships, material well-being, personal development, physical well-being, rights, self-determination, and social inclusion. Community capacity was also scored on eight categories or outcomes; citizen participation, leadership base, skills development opportunities, shared vision, strategic agenda, progress monitoring, organizations and institutions and resource utilization.
The following results highlight areas of relative strength and need within rural Alberta and are intended to inform targeted intervention and strategic planning on the part of stakeholders in rural development.
Selected key survey results indicate that:
 Analyses of 1600 completed surveys were conducted by rural/urban status (rural areas, small urban centres, and large urban centres) and by region (Calgary, Edmonton, southern Alberta (rural/small urban), central Alberta (rural/small urban), and northern Alberta (rural/small urban)).
 Note: All results denoting differences are statistically significant.