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Putting indigenous cultural safety first

National Indigenous Peoples Day is June 21. Learn how PHSA programs are supporting and encouraging dialogue around health disparities for Indigenous people in B.C. and across Canada.
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The Vancouver office where this article was written is located on the unceded traditional and ancestral territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. These nations have agency over the land.

June is National Indigenous History Month in Canada and June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day. It’s a time to celebrate the heritage, cultures and achievements of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people. It’s also an opportunity to reflect upon the past, present and future in relation to colonial history, while raising awareness of ongoing inequities, fostering understanding and encouraging dialogue. 

“Significant health disparities exist for Indigenous people in B.C. and across Canada, and stereotyping, discrimination and lack of understanding result in unsafe care or avoidance of care,” says Cheryl Ward, executive director, Indigenous Health.

PHSA Indigenous Health supports programs and services in a collective approach to providing safer and more equitable care for Indigenous patients.

“Our work supports programs and services in a collective approach to providing safer and more equitable care for Indigenous patients,” adds Cheryl.

The team continues to work with programs across PHSA to improve the health and well-being of Indigenous people, and to close the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous British Columbians.

Leading the nation in cultural safety training

The first of its kind in Canada, San’yas Indigenous cultural safety training aims to improve the safety and quality of health services Indigenous people receive, acting as an educational bridge to transform attitudes, behaviours and practice in health care.

More than 40,000 people have completed the program across Canada.

Supporting Indigenous women and their families

BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre's Indigenous Health program provides both on-site and outreach services to improve the health of Indigenous women and their families. The outreach program offers support to Indigenous communities (both on and off reserve) and includes education about various women's health issues and cervical and breast cancer screening clinics.

Perinatal Services BC provides leadership, planning and implementation in collaboration with Indigenous Health tripartite partners to improve access to maternity services for Indigenous women.

Uniting community, tradition and science

Chee Mamuk is a provincial Indigenous health program led by the BC Centre for Disease Control that provides innovative and culturally appropriate sexually transmitted infection (STI) and HIV education, resources and wise practice models. Chee Mamuk's services are grounded in community, tradition and science in order to build capacity in Indigenous communities to prevent the spread of HIV and STIs.

Improving population and public health

The Centre for Aboriginal Health is one of PHSA's eight centres for Population & Public Health. The director, PHSA Indigenous Health, chairs the Aboriginal Centre, which provides an Indigenous lens across the other centres. Currently, the Aboriginal Centre supports projects in three communities that demonstrate culturally appropriate community lead collaboration focused on spiritual, mental, physical, emotional and cultural health and wellness initiatives.

A provincial partnership for Indigenous cancer control

Everyone experiences cancer in their own unique ways. Indigenous people may share similar unique experiences and needs when on their cancer journey. BC Cancer, First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), Métis Nation British Columbia, and the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres are working collaboratively to better understand the Indigenous cancer journey, and have been engaging with Indigenous cancer patients, survivors and families from throughout the province. This engagement has informed the development of a joint Indigenous Cancer Strategy titled "Improving Indigenous Cancer Journeys in BC: A Road Map".

BC Cancer’s mobile breast screening service visits over 170 communities, including many First Nations communities. BC Cancer is also working with First Nations Health Authority on the Screen for Wellness campaign.

Supporting those seeking and accessing
gender-affirming care

Since the program was created, Trans Care BC has been engaging with various Indigenous communities around their work in gender-affirming care. The program has focused on centring trans and gender diverse Two-Spirit voices.

Trans Care BC has hosted gatherings across the province inviting community members with Two-Spirit wisdom to help them explore what communities need to create safety and support for trans and Two-Spirit people who are seeking and accessing gender-affirming care.

Accessing tuberculosis services

Tuberculosis (TB) services for Indigenous communities is a program component of the First Nations Health Authority's community health and wellness services. The program serves all First Nation communities in BC with TB control activities, treatment, screening, surveillance, training and education.

PHSA’s continuous commitment to
cultural safety

In July 2015, PHSA President & CEO Carl Roy, along with all BC health authority CEOs and the Minister of Health, signed the Declaration of Commitment on Cultural Safety and Humility in Health Services Delivery for First Nations and Aboriginal people in BC. This agreement acknowledges the commitment to embedding cultural safety within health services and there is a lot going on within PHSA to meet this commitment.

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