Today is National Indigenous Peoples Day -- a time for Canadians to celebrate the unique heritage, culture and contributions of Indigenous people to Canada. Linked to the summer solstice, the day is a time of celebration.
The importance of Indigenous people to our province is an integral part of our cultural fabric, and one we should all be proud of. But, unfortunately, when it comes to Indigenous health, we do not have a reason to celebrate. For decades, there has been a trend for the Indigenous population to experience poorer health and socioeconomic status than the rest of the province.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is committed to improving the health of Indigenous people.
2016 Saskatchewan Advisory Panel on Health System Structure Report recommended that Indigenous people help inform how to best address First Nations and Métis health in a culturally responsive and respectful manner, and the following should be considered:
a) Appropriate representation in the governance of the provincial health authority;
b) Ensuring community advisory networks are reflective of the ethnicity and culture of the community; and
c) Establishing a senior administrative role within the provincial health authority with the responsibility for ensuring health care services respect the Indigenous and Métis patient experience.
For Gabe Lafond, SHA’s executive director of First Nations and Métis Health, and his team, the advisory panel report has provided clear direction. The first step was to form an Indigenous health working group in the months leading up to the transition of 12 regional health authorities to one provincial authority. The working group’s mandate was to further explore the report recommendations. Through community engagement, surveys and an environmental scan, Gabe and his team captured key themes and recommendations for improvement. The working group’s report, to be released this summer, will help the SHA provide an integrated and culturally respectful approach to care for First Nations and Métis people.
As Lafond recently said, “We continue our journey towards equitable care for First Nations and Métis people. As health care providers, we will continue to find meaningful ways to provide excellent service for all people who seek our care."
Participants take part in an engagement session offered by
the Indigenous health working group.