The fourth and final Conversation on Health meeting with Aboriginal communities in the province was held on September 12th. The communities of Cowichan, Gitxsan, Little Shuswap and Seabird Island all expressed an interest in holding meetings and have now provided input to the province’s unprecedented year-long public discussion on health care.
“On behalf of government, I would like to thank participants from these Aboriginal communities for their interest, enthusiasm and partnership in hosting these meetings,” said Mary Polak, Parliamentary Secretary for the Conversation on Health. “Input from the four Aboriginal community meetings will help ensure the Conversation on Health reflects the concerns and ideas First Nations people have for our public health system, and the input will also support actions on the First Nations Health Plan.”
Ideas shared in the Aboriginal meetings included: a need to have better recognition of funding differences both on and off reserve, mental health case loads, traditional medicine, holistic healing and environmental issues such as air quality and affects on traditional healing; more support for health promotion and disease prevention, chronic diseases management and prevention, drugs and alcohol abuse and treatment centers, education, training; promotion of available resources to help prevent suicides in the community; and coordination of services of home care for elders.
“We know more work needs to be done to help improve the health of Aboriginal people in B.C. and we are eager to continue working with Aboriginal communities and organizations to ensure the gap between the health of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people continues to close,” said Dr. Evan Adams, B.C.’s Aboriginal Health Physician Advisor.
The Conversation on Health has provided British Columbians with the opportunity to tell government directly what they think is important for B.C.’s health system, where they see the pressures and their ideas and solutions. All ideas, innovations and solutions submitted will be reviewed and become part of the final record and report for the Conversation.
The First Nations Health Plan: Supporting the Health and Wellness of First Nations in British Columbia contains 29 initiatives in four areas where First Nations and the Province will collaborate to close the health status gap between 2007 and 2015. The plan ensures that First Nations will be integral partners in the design and delivery of health initiatives to close those gaps.
Since 2001, the ministry has brought in a number of initiatives and programs to promote Aboriginal health and wellness including:
o Appointed of B.C.’s first Aboriginal Health Physician Advisor;
o Provided $9.5 million to the First Nations Leadership Council to improve First Nations health;
o Funded $6 million to help improve the health of Aboriginal people throughout the province as part of ActNow BC;
o Provided $1 million towards Aboriginal nursing strategies to provide care in local First Nation communities;
o Created a specific Aboriginal tobacco strategy; and,
o Funded for Aboriginal mental health workers to provide support in communities.