Health Council of Canada: Métis Centre’s Work a Promising Practice
In August, the Health Council of Canada released Understanding and Improving Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health in Canada. The report is the result of a multi-year project initiated in 2010 to highlight programs and initiatives with the potential to reduce existing health disparities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians. Last winter, the Council held a series of seven regional meetings across Canada to learn what is making a difference in the health of Aboriginal mothers and young children. The goal of the meetings was to capture ‘on the ground’ information about what is working from people in the field.
The Council identified two Métis Centre projects as promising practices; Healthy Beginnings, Supportive Communities: A Strong Future, a DVD about Métis maternalchild health, and Ispayin—Métis Youth Express Yourself!, a DVD and discussion guide exploring Métis identity and culture from a youth perspective.
A promising practice was defined to include the following characteristics: is based on Aboriginal experiences, resonates with users, results in positive changes in people’s lives, is inclusive, and is adaptive, i.e. recognizes the importance of community context for successful implementation.
Findings from the report conclude that:
Healthy Beginnings, Supportive Communities: A Strong Future:
• Fills a gap where information was lacking or non-existent.
• Ensures Métis voices are heard in maternal and child health discussions.
• Recognizes and respects oral stories and teaching.
• Is easily accessible to all Métis across Canada.
• Has a comprehensive package with written material, images and video.
Ispayin—Métis Youth Express Yourself!:
• Promotes positive Métis identity.
• Builds Métis cultural competence.
• Is youth-driven and developed.
Many focus group participants stressed that quality health care for expectant
mothers and young children is not just prenatal care, delivery, postnatal care
and checkups; but involves taking a holistic look at a woman’s life. Embedded in many success stories heard at the meetings was the importance of knowledge
about language and traditions, cultural pride and self-determination, and integrating
all of these with the delivery of health care. Key themes from the sessions about issues affecting Aboriginal maternal and child health included:
• A holistic view of health. Western medicine typically looks at health issues in isolation, whereas Aboriginal communities look at a healthy life as a balance between the physical, spiritual, emotional and mental aspects of each person in conection with families and communities.
• Legacy of social issues. Critical issues that create obstacles for improved maternal and child health include poverty, colonialism, racism, and the traumatic legacy of residential schools.
• Complexities of the system. Funding models for health programs tend to be complicated, disjointed and short-term. Funding policies for Aboriginal health lack a focus on prevention and community health.
Many of the successful programs in the study integrated Western and Aboriginal practices, and some moved beyond health care services to help Aboriginal women and families address issues such as housing, social and emotional support, and education. The importance of education came up repeatedly, such as parenting and life skills classes, and preschool programs for children.
For more information or to read the complete report, visit the Health Council
of Canada at www.healthcouncilcanada.ca
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