Education is a strong determinant of an individual’s health and well-being across the life-span, this is associated with health literacy. However the patients’ experience in healthcare system is also relied on the healthcare service providers’ understanding to their patients.
Indigenous patients in Canada sometimes face more challenges due to cultural differences and many other factors.
Cassandra Harris is the communication coordinator at Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre (SOAHAC).
She said, “SOAHAC provides culturally safe, wholistic integrated health services for First Nations, Metis, Inuit people families and communities in southwest Ontario.”
“It was developed in response to very large health inequities and disparities and also to address alarming incidents of poor health in First Nations and high incidents of home violence and they are all results in different ways, from colonization, The Indian Act and the residential school system.”
She added that research shows there are a lot of barriers for Indigenous accessing health services in mainstream places such as emergency rooms.
“And part of that can be due to services provider bias and people are not understanding or knowing the history of colonization, not understanding the effects of inter-generational trauma and the impact on indigenous health that continues today.”
Is it possible to achieve the harmony between indigenous traditional health values and westernized healthcare model? She said that is exactly what SOHAC is working on.
“We use the western model and we blend that with Indigenous health practices and knowledge so that you get the best of both worlds, so we have doctors, we have health practitioners, we have social workers, they are all registered health providers and we also provide access to indigenous healers and elders from the communities that have that knowledge, have that wisdom and we blend that together.”
Adrean Angles is the Indigenous Liaison for Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University, he was born and raised in London, and is First Nations from Oneida nation of the Thames and Chippewa of the Thames.
He said, “During my studies and years of research, I have been noticing what is happening around me through all the literature I have been reading, I have been noticing the health disparities that are reflected on my experiences, the people I see in my family and in my community.”
Angles agreed that it is possible to achieve the harmony between Indigenous health values and westernized healthcare. He said, “It all comes down to understanding and knowledge from the health providers, so if the provider can understand the population they are working with and understand what they are dealing with…and understand what their healthcare needs are and their ways of viewing the world through a healthcare lens.”
“We are on this healthcare model where you see your patient for 5 minutes and try to get that person out of the door as quickly as possible so you can get on to the next patient. When you meet with an Indigenous patient, it is better to build that relationship first, whether it takes you an hour with that patient to understand their true healthcare needs. They are not going to open up to you in 5 minutes and tell everything you need to understand that individual.”