FN Health Authority seeks to improve health outcomes for aboriginals

Programs that were a Health Canada responsibility last week, now fall under the aegis of the First Nations Health Authority.

The newly activated First Nations Health Authority can be seen as the “next natural step” in the evolution of health service delivery for B.C. aboriginals, said Grand Chief Doug Kelly of Sto:lo Tribal Council.

Some programs delivered to aboriginals in B.C. that were a Health Canada responsibility last week, now fall under the aegis of the newly minted First Nations Health Authority.

As chair of the First Nations Health Council, Grand Chief Kelly has a mandate for advocacy and reciprocal accountability for FNHA, and as such has been front and centre as they complete a formal transfer on Oct. 1, of programs, resources, staff, assets and more.

“What we achieved today is elevating the work that began many years ago,” he said Tuesday in a phone interview with the Progress. “We have proven we could take on the responsibilities that were once Health Canada’s, and that we could blend the best of two worlds, the best of modern medicine and the best of our cultural traditions and ceremonies.”

“We knew that what we did locally we could do regionally, and what we did regionally we could do right across the province.”

The FNHA, as a result of a signed agreement, will take on delivery of health programs and services in B.C. to aboriginals living on-reserve and off. It’s everything from primary care to mental health and addictions as well as environmental health and research, and they’ll be partnering with the province as well.

It’s nothing new for Sto:lo communities, but it’s quite a feat to see it clear across the province, said Kelly.

He’ll be responsible for ensuring the work meets the expectations of chiefs, health directors and citizens.

On the website a basic question is explained: “Why a First Nations Health Authority? Statistically significant health disparities exist for First Nations people in BC and across Canada. The First Nations Health Authority aims to reform the way health care is delivered to BC First Nations to close these gaps and improve health and well being.”

And it continues: “BC First Nations, the Province of BC, and the Government of Canada have all determined that First Nations health disparities are no longer acceptable. A New Relationship between these Tripartite Partners was forged and a series of precedent-setting agreements led to the creation of a First Nations Health Authority.”

Grand Chief Kelly saw the need for this kind of self-reliant service delivery when he was the youngest chief of Soowahlie First Nation in the 1980s, in the early days of the Sto:lo Tribal Council.

With First Nations communities seeking economic development opportunities through creation of land codes, and taxation, the takeover of health service delivery is in a similar vein.

“It’s important to observe that where First Nations governments are exercising control, there are better outcomes. When they design and deliver the programming, there are better outcomes.

How will the average Sto:lo in Chilliwack notice the transfer?

“Initially we don’t want them to notice. It will be a seamless transfer with no disruption or minimal disruption in service. But in the coming months we want to transform programs and make significant improvements.

It’s about getting access to primary care and a family doctor, even for people in rural and remote communities.

He knew about the challenges rurally, but Kelly said he was surprised to learn that many First Nations people living in greater Vancouver did not have access to a family doctor. Better access means better care.

‘”The most expensive kind of health care anyone can get is inside the emergency room of the local hospital, and that’s where many are going, so we’ll make certain to move to a better form of care, and access to that care.”

The goal is to produce better outcomes.

So what will that look like?

It’s changing a sickness model of care, one that treats disease, into a wellness model.

“It’s one that not only tilts the investment toward treating illness, but also invests in health promotion and prevention of disease.”

“Health” is an outcome, Kelly said he’s come to recognize that it is an “outcome of housing, of education, of income, of strong, healthy families.”

What they’ve created with the new health authority is a way to change the very social determinants of health.

“So it doesn’t matter where people live, if they can’t access the kind of services we take for granted. We need to make those changes and we will.”



Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

People stroll through rows of tulips in bloom during the Tulips of the Valley Festival on May 2, 2017. The colourful spring event, now called Chilliwack Tulips, opens on Sunday, April 11, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Chilliwack tulip attraction open this weekend after being closed last year due to COVID-19

More than 6.5 million bulbs in all at this year’s colourful Chilliwack Tulips event

Oregon spotted frog egg masses near Agassiz. (Fraser Valley Conservancy)
Jumping for joy over Oregon spotted frog discovery near Agassiz

Finding six egg masses could be step toward recovery of Canada’s most endangered amphibian

Sunset Manor, an assisted living facility in Chilliwack owned by the Netherlands Reformed Congregation of Chilliwack, pictured here in October 2020, had its third COVID-19 outbreak declared on April 9, 2021. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Third outbreak declared at Chilliwack care home run by church known for opposing vaccinations

30-bed Sunset Manor owned and operated by Netherlands Reformed Congregation of Chilliwack

Peter Scherle shared this 1958 photo of his father, then-Town Chairperson Paul Scherle (centre) speaking with Queen Elizabeth II with Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in the background. Prince Philip passed away April 9 at the age of 99. (Photo/Peter Scherle)
PHOTOS: Hope residents remember Prince Philip, royal visits to Fraser Valley

Prince Phillip died at age 99 at Windsor Castle on April 9

Sold decals on real estate signs are commonplace in the red-hot Chilliwack real estate market (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy)
Chilliwack homes getting offers the first day the for-sale sign goes up

The March report from the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board shows the market remains red-hot

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards South Island film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

British Columbia Attorney General David Eby. (Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Attorney General covers housing, homelessness and justice reform in Surrey Zoom

‘I think it would be really great to hold some sessions in Surrey,’ Eby says of legislative assembly

Most Read