Aboriginal healthcare gets $2 million boost

Fraser Health, FNHA committed a combined $2 million to address gaps in healthcare system to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal people.

Fraser Health and First Nations Health Authority staff Brian Muth (left)

Fraser Health and First Nations Health Authority staff Brian Muth (left)

Two million dollars – one million each from Fraser Health and the First Nations Health Authority – has been committed to help support better health outcomes for First Nations and Aboriginal people in the Fraser Health-Fraser Salish region.

This money will fund initiatives and services to address the largest unmet needs identified through available population health data and by working with First Nation communities, Metis and Aboriginal people living in the Fraser Salish region.

A team from Fraser Health and First Nations Health Authority were at Chilliwack General Hospital on Monday to share the news and create some awareness of the forthcoming efforts with staff and the general public.

The local commitment stems from a provincial mandate to better embed cultural safety and cultural humility into the health care system, Interim Director of Aboriginal Health with Fraser Health Brian Muth explained.

“Cultural safety – it’s about mutual trust between the healthcare system and the Indigenous population,” Muth said. “Health care providers see the people they’re providing care for as partners in the process rather than […] telling individuals in the community how they’re supposed to take care of their bodies.”

The patient-centred care is one way to reduce power imbalances.

Carol Peters, Aboriginal Health Liaison for Fraser East, says it means that the health care provider will be willing to ask questions, to listen, to be open to their patient’s beliefs and learn as much as they can about the person they’re providing service to.

“What we’re doing is leading the way to create a better healthcare system for all people in the Fraser region, starting with the first people,” Muth added.

While the $2 million has been committed to the project, the specific details of how that money will be put to use is still being determined. Consultations with First Nations communities and health authorities will help determine needs and prioritize those needs, which will likely align with the goals of the Fraser Salish Regional Health and Wellness Plan.

Muth says that, generally, they’ll be looking at areas that will provide the greatest impact in health outcomes, in part by making “upstream” healthcare investments, which are early measures that will make lasting differences throughout the lifespan.

They’re looking at improving pillars of healthcare such as primary health, including enhanced access to physicians, nurses, oral health and maternal, prenatal and perinatal care; public health, with a focus on health and nutrition literacy, immunizations and preventative measures; as well as mental wellness and substance use.

Fraser Health has developed a video and poster campaign to further articulate the vision of the cultural safety framework, and the Provincial Health Services Authority has introduced an eight-hour online training course to help staff better understand cultural safety, Aboriginal history, self-awareness and to strengthen skills.

These steps will assist health care providers in collaborating with Aboriginal individuals, families and communities to ensure equitable access to high quality health care services that honour and respect the traditional beliefs and unique position of Aboriginal people.

Fraser Health, the First Nations Health Authority and Aboriginal people will be working together to address gaps within the health care system that will improve the overall health of Aboriginal people.