Health is so much more than simply not being ill! If you’ve ever been sick or affected by a condition, you know how it can affect your day-to-day and life outcomes whether physical, social, or psychological.
There’s no denying it, the historical relationship between First Nation communities and the Canadian healthcare system has always been tumultuous, to say the least. To this, we add healthcare disparities due to geographical settings as well as trauma from the impact of colonization, residential schools, and cultural displacement on the health and well-being of First Nations people. These only add to the reasons interactions and trust have been so low.
Nowadays, as we move to improve the relations with First Nations peoples, understanding the cultural beliefs, practices, and traditions that influence healthcare preferences are at the core of our priorities.
A study on health determinants for First Nations in Alberta conducted by Health Canada has confirmed a multitude of differences and challenges between most Canadians, non-Indigenous Albertans, and First Nations peoples of the province.
This latter population is much younger than the rest of the province’s population, and although life expectancy and infant mortality rates have improved, they remain lower than Canadian numbers.
First Nations present higher rates of chronic diseases and mental health issues, more injuries leading to death between ages of 0 and 44, poorer results regarding chronic diseases, addiction (smoking and alcohol) body weight.
In addition, children in these communities have more chances of growing up in a single-parent household or being involved in the child welfare system. 51.9% also never have completed high school.
Although community-based initiatives are tackling these health challenges and disparities, they have grave consequences in the community and need to be addressed to offer better services.
Once providers and stakeholders are better informed of these challenges, they must also provide healthcare services that respect and incorporate the cultural values and traditions of First Nation communities.
Successful models of culturally sensitive care have been implemented in Alberta and this culturally appropriate care has led to improved health outcomes and increased trust between healthcare providers and First Nation individuals.
At CHCA, we remain optimistic about the potential for improving the healthcare landscape for Alberta First Nation communities and all people. As we strive to share knowledge on a continual basis, we can only stress the importance of fostering ongoing collaboration to achieve this goal. We encourage policymakers and stakeholders to prioritize healthcare and ensure improvement and positive change, as well as invest in sustaining positive health outcomes.
Want to experience the North and get involved in amazing communities to contribute to this healthier future for all?
Present in different regions, our goal is to help multiple northern communities that need our support and health services, such as Garden River, Hay Lake, John D’Or and Fox Lake communities. Join our team!