Strengthening Aboriginal Health through a Place-Based learning Community
by John F. Anderson, Basia Pakula, Victoria Smye, Virginia Peters, and Leslie Schroeder
Mainstream models of health care have not been successful in meeting the needs of Aboriginal Peoples. Solutions are needed that value Indigenous knowledge and Western science equally, and focus on community strengths and successes rather than problems and failures.
The Health Integration Project Planning (HIPP) Committee is a partnership between the reserve community of Sts’ailes, Fraser Health Authority (FHA), and researchers at the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia. Together, they look for ways to improve health services for the Sts’ailes people and other FHA clients. One of the Committee’s projects, the Sts’ailes Primary Health Care Project, was developed to examine how Indigenous and Western models of health care are used in the delivery of health and wellness services to Aboriginal communities.
Place-based learning communities (PbLCs)
PbLCs are dialogue-based networks that support a community’s ability to generate its own research projects and co-produce locally relevant knowledge with other researchers. The principles of PbLCs are being implemented in the Sts’ailes project, and include the following: • Protocols: Dialogues during HIPP forums are structured to ensure equality of power between the participants.
- Iterative dialogue: Dialogue between the partners is multi-directional and usually narrative. Discussions are extensive and repeated to ensure that all parties understand one another.
- Stakeholders and community participation: Participation and feedback from the community is highly encouraged to ensure that the research is applicable and meets with community approval.
- Honouring traditional teachings: Community leaders strive to blend the best of the medical model with traditional, holistic approaches.
An intimate, trusting partnership has emerged between the members of the HIPP Committee. This collaborative environment, which was developed during the Sts’ailes project, is in contrast to past initiatives in which academic researchers imposed their projects upon Aboriginal communities in a top-down fashion.
However, each PbLC partnership is unique and requires hard work and patience to develop. The HIPP Committee can serve as an example rather than a template for future initiatives in other Aboriginal communities.