Clearing the Path for Community Health Empowerment: Integrating Health Care Services at an Aboriginal Health Access Centre in Rural North Central Ontario
Marion Maar – B.SC., M.A., Ph.D. Candidate Research and Evaluation Co-ordinator Noojmowin Teg Health Centre and Department of Anthropology, McMaster University
The article provides a critical examination of the rewards and challenges faced by communitybased Aboriginal health organizations to integrate the rapidly evolving provincially- and federallyfunded Aboriginal health program streams within an existing mainstream rural and federal First Nations health care system in Ontario. The shift to self-governance in health care means Aboriginal health organizations are dealing with rapid organizational changes. In addition, community health program planners at the First Nations level are faced with the challenge of developing local Aboriginal models of care and integrating these within the often-conflicting backdrop of the existing mainstream model of community health. While political leadership and health organization typically both have mandates to work towards the health and well-being in their communities, the two sectors may not always have the same expectations on how to realize these goals. While autonomy in the development of services is essential to self-determination in health, there is also a need for Aboriginal health agencies to collaborate regionally in order to improve health at the community level in the most effective and timeliest manner. Using the example of the mental health and traditional Aboriginal health services, this article provides an analysis of the role of an Aboriginal health access centre in regional community health empowerment.