The Province and First Nations throughout British Columbia are working together to find new, practical approaches to improving First Nations people’s health and wellness.
Stemming from an agreement signed with the Province in March 2016, the First Nations Health Council (FNHC) is facilitating an engagement process between First Nations and a number of provincial ministries to find changes to policies, programs and services that address some key social determinants of health.
Social determinants of health are the economic, social and historical factors that influence the health of individuals and communities.
First Nations people in B.C. face shorter life expectancy, higher rates of chronic diseases like diabetes and more mental health challenges than the general population. Improving health and wellness amongst First Nations people is a shared priority for the Ministry of Health, First Nations Health Authority, regional health authorities, Heath Canada and First Nations around the province. Addressing social determinants of health supports this priority.
At upcoming First Nations Health Council fall regional caucus sessions, First Nations leadership in B.C. will engage in direct community-driven dialogue and discussions with ministerial partners to ensure a mutual understanding of challenges, barriers and priorities to change.
The process will look at healthy child and family well-being, addressing child welfare issues in culturally safe ways, continuing to enhance educational outcomes and working with the justice system so that it works better for First Nations individuals and families.
From the discussions, the partners will develop an overarching strategy at the provincial level to guide the five regions in implementing specific local, regional and provincial priorities and approaches. The First Nations Health Council is supporting the facilitation of these discussions using the B.C. First Nations-designed ‘engagement and approvals’ pathway that has proven successful in the area of health, resulting in the First Nations Health Authority, a first in Canada. This will support the collaborative development of shared strategies on specific policies, regulations, programs and services to start addressing the social determinants of health that impact First Nations communities in British Columbia.
The federal government is also a key partner in addressing social determinants of health. Discussions are underway to include the federal government as the process moves forward.
The memorandum of understanding builds on the work to provide better health care and improve the health and wellness of First Nations people in B.C. under the tripartite agreement between the First Nations Health Council, the B.C. Ministry of Health and Health Canada. B.C.’s First Nations Health Authority started delivering its own programs and services and Health Canada’s transferred programming in 2013 as a result of that agreement.
Premier Christy Clark –
“It has been three years since the First Nations Health Authority began health-service administration and delivery for 203 communities in British Columbia. The social determinants project is part of the new way of addressing First Nations health, bringing decision-making closer to home and examining all of the factors that impact health and wellness in different communities.”
Terry Lake, Minister of Health –
“The provincial government recognizes that a collaborative approach is the only way forward to addressing the health needs of First Nations peoples of B.C. We have seen improvements in providing culturally-safe and responsive care. But it’s time to take this work further by engaging First Nations on many other aspects of life that impact health status, with pragmatic, effective, culturally responsive actions that really make a difference in the lives of individuals and communities.”
Grand Chief Doug Kelly, chair of the First Nations Health Council –
“Over the next two years, Chiefs in each of the regions will set priorities, give strategic direction and develop a long term strategy to make progress on the social determinants of health. Building upon the successful tripartite health governance structure, we can work with the Government of Canada and the Province of B.C. to support healthy, self-determining, vibrant B.C. First Nations children, families and communities.”
Stephanie Cadieux, Minister of Children and Family Development –
“Our children are the future and they all deserve to live happy, healthy and culturally enriched lives. We’re committed to taking the necessary steps to address key health obstacles so all Aboriginal children and families in B.C. can reach their full potential. Working with our First Nations partners towards this goal will help make our province stronger, one family at a time.”
To read the MOU, please visit the First Nations Health Council: http://fnhc.ca/
A backgrounder follows.