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Windspeaker Health Watch - December 2014


Compiled by Shari Narine







Study on gangs sheds light on prevention

University of British Columbia counselling psychology professor Alanaise Goodwill, a member of Manitoba’s Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation, has conducted a study of the Aboriginal gangs that are prevalent in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba as part of her PhD. She interviewed 10 gang members, including a relative, in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Youth said they joined not only to belong somewhere, but to gain basic necessities, such as shelter and food. While there are a number of ways to leave a gang, Goodwill was told the most successful way is to get a legal job. Programs are delivered to prevent kids from joining gangs, but the programs are neither steady nor sustainable so fail. One promising approach to preventing gang-affiliation is wraparound intervention, where at-risk youth handpick known adults in their lives to work as a team with child and family service agencies, and their school. The team then identifies health, social, cultural and vocational goals for the youth and helps him work towards those specific objectives.


Lack of mental health support reflected in Nunavut justice system

A new report based on the Inuit Health Survey carried out in Nunavut indicates that the territory is the most under-served region in the country when it comes to dealing with mental health issues and that has an impact on the justice system. The report, which looks at three areas of Nunavut’s justice system — community justice, family violence and the relationship between mental health and the criminal justice system — says the system has “failed children and youth.” NTI wants the Government of Nunavut to create a screening program that would identify people who could be at risk because of a history of trauma or mental health issues. NTI also wants Aboriginal health organizations to have federal funding restored and is pushing for the creation of a recruitment strategy, aimed at getting psychiatrists and clinical psychologists living and working in the territory. In the report, NTI says that even if all of its recommendations were put into place, it wouldn’t immediately fix the problems within the system. 


Connection between diabetes and cultural continuity examined

A study entitled, “Cultural continuity, traditional Indigenous language, and diabetes in Alberta First Nations: a mixed methods study,” looked at the relationship between cultural continuity, self-determination, and diabetes prevalence. Diabetes prevalence is a major Indigenous health problem. Using information garnered from interviews conducted of 10 Cree and Blackfoot leaders, and developing a quantitative analysis using public and provincial administrative data for the 31 First Nations communities, it was determined that cultural continuity was a key factor to health success between the First Nations. Specifically for diabetes, they observed that First Nations with longer cultural continuity exhibited significantly lower levels for diabetes prevalence, even after adjusting for socio-economic factors. These findings represent an important aspect since cultural continuity is compromised in the Alberta Cree and Blackfoot Nations, due to colonization effects and First Nations are struggling with government policy. The study was published in International Journal for Equity in Health.


FNHA works with partners to improve cancer care

The First Nations Health Authority will be working in collaboration with BC Cancer Agency, Provincial Health Services Authority, Métis Nation British Columbia, and British Columbia Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres to improve cancer care for Aboriginal peoples in the province. The new strategy will advance improvements in continuity of cancer care for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit patients in rural and remote communities. A key focus in the three-year project is to improve the continuity of cancer care in a culturally competent and safe manner for Aboriginal cancer patients, with a focus on rural and remote communities to ensure sustainable transformative change. Through regional and province-wide engagement, the project will create a better understanding of the needs and opportunities, and will address gaps identified by developing relevant resources and tools within communities, for communities.


Aboriginal inmates give back to impoverished children

UBC nursing professor Helen Brown has received about $150,000 in funding from the Movember Foundation to study the effect of replacing idle time of male Aboriginal inmates with work aimed at giving back to impoverished children and families. Brown’s project was one of 15 approved by the Movember Foundation’s Men’s Health & Wellbeing Innovation Challenge to share in $2.2 million. Projects needed to be “creative and innovative ideas that [aim] to disrupt long-held assumptions about men’s health, focus on positive elements of masculinity, and get men to take action with their health.” Brown’s project treats the inmates, 25 in all, as co-researchers, and she called it “almost more activism” than research. The men involved are across three sites in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region. Jobs involve making furniture, toys, cultural items and growing food. All of it is sent to the most impoverished First Nations children and families in B.C. Those children have begun writing to thank the inmates as well, which Brown says has further motivated the men. This element of helping others is integral to the project. Brown said she targeted Aboriginal men because they are over-represented in the justice system and the usual methods of rehabilitation are not working. The funding allows Brown to study metrics such as early release dates and repeat offences among the men over two years to see if the new strategies have an impact. Already she has heard and recorded testimony from the men in the program which has both moved and impressed her.