First Nations Health, a continuation of our Introduction to Aboriginal Peoples in Canada course in semester 2. This time, we delved into the world of health determination, chronic disease such as diabetes, and the stigma that surrounds mental illness in small, remote communities. I think it need not be said that failures of generations past has led to poor living conditions and negative health outcomes on Aboriginal communities.
First, we explored the concepts of cultural competency and sensitivity in the health care context. With over 1 million Canadians identifying themselves as coming from First Nations decent, and over half of the population living in urban centres, the likeliness of working with Aboriginal clients is quite high. On top of that, Canada being a multicultural country means the concept of culturally appropriate and sensitive care is more important than in some other countries. This goes beyond simply acknowledging other cultures, but also that other cultures display different symptomology for the same conditions.
Next, we understood the determinants of health. Aboriginal communities are among the poorest, and isolated in Canada. With a heavy stigma on mental illness and even chronic diseases like diabetes mellitus, not having close access to health care services makes encouraging treatment that much more difficult. Often, a health clinic can be in the middle of the town where the most activity takes place, for us as nurses, we must understand that getting someone in the door to work with us also means educating the community about chronic and mental illness.
We also discussed women’s and children’s health. First Nations communities record some of the highest rates of domestic violence in the country. This is not true for each community but is a broad problem that has historically been a challenge to overcome. With median incomes below $30,000 a year and unemployment rates as high as 50%; this becomes coupled with intergenerational abuse and continuing fallout from the Residential Schooling system. While many of us would be appalled at men for the actions they commit, many of those same men are appalled themselves and compelled to change when faced with their actions. We explored the various programs available to families, for both victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse. We heard from both survivors and the men who had made them fear for their lives, and the change that was possible when the community came in to support those in need.
Finally, we examined a new theory for delivering Aboriginal health care here in Canada, and the concept of hybridization. In British Columbia, the delivery of health care for Aboriginal communities was turned over to a new formed health authority, the First Nations Health Authority. We explored the ground breaking and innovative plans and how they were becoming concrete ideas in communities across British Columbia. Many countries like the United States and Australia are monitoring the progress and outcomes of this project to possibly implement themselves. One of the most important aspects and the integration of traditional knowledge and healing, and working in a true partnership to deliver programs to the community. We have spent far too many decades trying to force health policy on Aboriginal leaders, instead of including them in the solution. I am hopeful that this will bring about real change for our future generations.
Being a distance program with students from around the province, and with a significant Aboriginal population here in Metro Vancouver, this course really helped bridge knowledge that we would not have gained on the job. This also allowed me to explore my interest in considering rural nursing opportunities and was a good chance to learn from a different perspective.