Health Council of Canada

Health Council of Canada

August 09, 2011 07:30 ET

Health Council of Canada: "Promising Practices" Identified to Address Pressing Issues in Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Aug. 9, 2011) -

Editors Note: There is a photo, a video and an audio clip associated with this press release.

Today, the Health Council of Canada released Understanding and Improving Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health in Canada, a commentary highlighting the continuing health inequities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians as well as promising practices for change.

In January and February of 2011, the Health Council of Canada held a series of seven regional sessions across Canada to learn what programs and strategies are making a difference in the health of Aboriginal mothers and young children. A large proportion of participants were front-line health care workers; the commentary offers a window into the experiences and insights of people who work with and provide care to Aboriginal women and young children.

The goal of the report is to create a better understanding of and support for programs and initiatives that have the potential to reduce health disparities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.

"While there is considerable diversity among First Nations, Inuit and Métis populations, they share significantly worse health and living conditions than the rest of the Canadian population," said John G. Abbott, CEO of the Health Council of Canada. "Breaking this cycle should be a policy imperative for governments given the much younger demographic profile of Aboriginal communities and their higher birth rate. This report helps identify not just areas of deep concern, but also programs that are working, as identified by front-line workers and the communities themselves."

Key comments highlighting critical issues affecting Aboriginal maternal and child health in various regions include:

A holistic view of health: Western medicine typically looks at health issues in isolation, whereas Aboriginal communities look at a healthy life as a balance between the physical, spiritual, emotional and mental aspects of each person in connection with families and communities.

Legacy social issues: Critical issues that create roadblocks for improved maternal and child health include poverty, colonialism, racism and the traumatic legacy of residential schools.

Complexities of the system: Funding models for health programs tend to be complicated, disjointed and short-term. Funding policies for Aboriginal health lack a focus on prevention and community health.

Despite these concerns, participants at the sessions highlighted more than 100 programs, policies, organizations and strategies that are believed to be making improvements to the health of expectant Aboriginal mothers and young children.

Many successful programs integrate both Western and Aboriginal practices, and some move beyond typical health care services to help Aboriginal women and families with other aspects of their lives, such as housing, social and emotional support, and education. The importance of early education came up repeatedly – particularly programs to help young parents learn parenting and life skills, and preschool programs for children. These early interventions help to lay a foundation for better lifelong physical and emotional health for future generations.

A strong message from participants was that funding for these programs is inconsistent, and they need increased, stable, and long term funding to allow programs to put down roots and to reach as many parents and children as possible.

"Canadian governments – both federal and provincial - must play a leadership role in addressing the health of Aboriginal people," said Dr. Michael Moffat, a councillor with the Health Council of Canada. "Governments need to provide stable, multi-year funding, and Aboriginal communities must be allowed to determine how to design and deliver the health programs that best meet the needs of their populations, including evaluation and accountability."

"An effective way to improve the lives of Aboriginal children and their communities would be to focus on expanding programs that are clearly working to reach more mothers and children, and to ensure long-term and simplified funding arrangements," said John G. Abbott.

Understanding and Improving Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health in Canada is the first in a multi-year series of projects by the Health Council of Canada aimed at learning more about the urgent situation in Aboriginal health, and programs that have the potential to make a difference.

The Health Council website, www.healthcouncilcanada.ca, provides additional details about this commentary, and a summary of the seven regional sessions.

Quotes

"While there is considerable diversity between First Nations, Inuit and Métis populations, they share significantly worse health and living conditions than the rest of the Canadian population."

John G. Abbott, CEO of the Health Council of Canada

"This report helps identify not just areas of deep concern, but also promising practices that are working, as identified by front-line workers and the communities themselves."

John G. Abbott, CEO of the Health Council of Canada

"An effective way to improve the lives of Aboriginal children and their communities would be to focus on expanding programs that are clearly working to reach more mothers and children, and to ensure long-term and simplified funding arrangements."

John G. Abbott, CEO of the Health Council of Canada

"Canadian governments – both Federal and provincial - must play a leadership role in addressing the health of Aboriginal peoples."

Michael Moffat, Councillor, Health Council of Canada

"Governments need to provide stable, multi-year funding, but Aboriginal communities must be allowed to determine how to design and deliver the health programs that best meet the needs of the populations, including evaluation and accountability."

Michael Moffat, Councillor, Health Council of Canada

About the Health Council of Canada

Created by the 2003 First Ministers' Accord on Health Care Renewal, the Health Council of Canada is an independent national agency that reports on the progress of health care renewal. The Council provides a system-wide perspective on health care reform in Canada, and disseminates information on best practices and innovation across the country. The Councillors are appointed by the participating provincial and territorial governments and the Government of Canada.

To read the full commentary, a summary of the regional sessions, as well as to download other materials visit: www.healthcouncilcanada.ca.

To view the photo associated with this press release, please visit the following link: http://www.marketwire.com/library/20110808-hccHLT800.jpg

To view the video associated with this press release, please visit the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QC4f07snDMg

To view the audio clip associated with this press release, please visit the following link:
http://media3.marketwire.com/docs/EnglishAbHealthAudio1.mp3

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