Health information on Métis Citizens in British Columbia will become available as a result of a historic information-sharing agreement signed between Métis Nation BC and the provincial government.
The Métis Public Health Surveillance Program will enable the ministry to identify consenting Métis Citizens from among existing databases and report on specific health outcomes and chronic diseases.
"The information-sharing agreement is significant because it will allow the provincial Ministry of Health to identify Métis Citizens that give consent within existing health databases," said B.C. Health Minister Michael de Jong. "Once that linkage is made, more specific information will be available as to the health status of Métis Citizens in British Columbia, allowing for targeted program development, ongoing monitoring and reporting on the prevalence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular health and respiratory illness."
MNBC Minister responsible for Health Lissa Smith is excited about seeing the Métis Nation Relationship Accord become a living document. "This partnership with the B.C. Ministry of Health is a direct result of the Métis Nation Relationship Accord and the diligence of the Public Health Agency of Canada," Smith said. "These partnerships and the consent of Métis Citizens also demonstrate how MNBC is working across jurisdictional boundaries to improve the health status of Métis in British Columbia."
MNBC will release a consent package for participation in the project at their annual general meeting, which includes an introductory letter, an informational brochure, a consent form and a personal information form.
Upon receiving the package, Métis Citizens are asked to review the information, sign the consent form, complete the personal information form and return the consent and personal information form to MNBC in the postage-paid envelope included.
"The consent process is unique to the Métis Nation and is a method to engage MNBC Citizens. It also develops sustainability in this project and future projects meant to improve the relationship and information shared between MNBC and the B.C. provincial government," said Dr. Peter Hutchinson, PhD, program manager of the Chronic Disease Surveillance Program. "This program is unique in that MNBC has created an ethics committee to ensure Métis Citizens privacy and the Métis culture is respected throughout the process of information sharing and dissemination."
"The success of this program relies on Métis Citizen's participation. Without this crucial information, those working to improve the health status and health care that Métis people receive will be reliant on assumptions that do not serve the Métis peoples," added Hutchinson.
The information gained from sharing Métis Citizenship records with the B.C. government will provide insight into the health status of Métis people in BC. Over 10 per cent of the self-identified Métis people resident in B.C. have applied and been accepted for citizenship in MNBC.
"We can use this information for program development, evaluation and generally to improve the health status of Métis in B.C.," said MNBC Director of Health and Sport Tanya Davoren, RN. "Currently we have very little health information on the Métis in B.C. This project will increase the amount of, and quality of information available."
Once Métis Citizens have consented to sharing their Métis status with the provincial government, the B.C. Ministry of Health will undertake data linkages to establish a Métis Cohort, analyze health results for chronic disease surveillance, and then provide MNBC with aggregated (non-identifiable) data.
This will include publishing joint reports on the most common ailments of Métis. Dr. Hutchinson said, "Once this data-sharing has proved successful, MNBC hopes to partner with the BC Cancer Agency and possibly the Canadian Institute of Health Information to develop detailed accounts of other threats to well-being including cancers and health care utilization."
Addressing concerns of privacy, Dr. Hutchinson stated that MNBC and the B.C. government hold this as their main concern and have developed a partnership that respects and protects Métis Citizens. "And, the Métis Nation British Columbia ethics committee will continuously monitor the project and reports resulting from the information sharing."
The information-sharing agreement on health data builds on the 2006 Métis Nation Relationship Accord signed between the Province of B.C. and Métis Nation BC.
Ryan Jabs, Media Relations Manager
Ministry of Health
250 952-1887 (media line)
Robert J McDonald
Métis Nation British Columbia
613 720-4442 mobile
Métis Nation British Columbia