Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Health Information Science


Leipert, Beverly

2nd Supervisor

Regan, Sandra



Disproportionately high mortality and morbidity rates experienced by rural men are often related to the high prevalence of rural male farmers (RMFs) who are consistently exposed to chemicals, animal waste, and dust, or injured or killed while working. This dissertation aimed to explain processes by which RMFs seek health information (HI), and how these processes are influenced by rural social, cultural, political, and geographical factors.

Three studies were conducted as part of this dissertation. The first study was a literature review that explored the relationship between rural men’s health, health information seeking (HIS) theory, and masculinity theory. The second study was a retrospective analysis of Ontario health policy and planning documents published since 2006 to establish the health policy context within which RMFs in Ontario seek HI. The third study integrated constructivist grounded theory and photovoice to identify and explain processes by which RMFs in southwest Ontario seek HI and factors that affect those processes.

Findings of the literature review suggest that rural hegemonic masculinity – a socially desirable gender identity that values men’s toughness – may influence rural men to avoid HIS. Health policy and planning document analysis identified 13 documents published since 2006 that included RMFs’ health or health needs. Analysis indicated that health policy and planning document authors addressed RMFs as both: 1) token symbols of rural communities, and 2) key stakeholders to engage with to “mend fences” and improve strained relationships between healthcare providers and rural communities. Sixteen RMFs in southwest Ontario participated in the constructivist grounded theory-photovoice study. Participants revealed that their HIS was guided by an identity-related core process entitled ‘normalizing self as an RMF throughout HIS’, and that ‘normalizing’ was affected by rural social, cultural, geographical, and political factors.

These studies have implications for how rural communities, agricultural interest groups, health and non-health policy makers, and rural healthcare planners and providers can influence how RMFs seek HI. Future research is needed to understand how RMFs seek HI in different rural contexts, how rural communities can effectively support RMFs to engage in HIS, and how future health and non-health policy can promote RMFs’ health and HIS.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.