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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A New Era of First Nations Health in BC

Trevor Kehoe is a Communications Officer with the First Nations Health Authority on Coast Salish Territory in West Vancouver.

BC First Nations are making history by undertaking a transformative process to change the way health care is delivered to their children, families and communities. The Tripartite First Nations Health process underway in BC is a case study in the power of many Nations coming together and speaking with a common voice to find a path forward to better health outcomes.

The area of what is known as BC is home to the most diverse cross-section of First Nations across this country, with 203 unique communities. The importance of health and wellness emerged as common ground upon which BC First Nations communities could unite to work toward change necessary for the health of their people. This cooperation and the vision shown by Chiefs, Leaders, Health Directors, and Health Leads was the foundation that allowed for the initiation of the current Tripartite process.

Supportive partners in Health Canada, the Province of BC, our five provincial Regional Health Authorities, and others have created the space for a meaningful collaborative process to evolve and grow with BC First Nations positioned as equal partners along this shared journey.

Through innovative engagement processes like our annual Gathering Wisdom for a Shared Journey Forums, Regional Caucus Sessions in all five areas of the province, Community Engagement HUBS, comprehensive reporting and communications, First Nations Health Council Table, and other mechanisms, space is created for each First Nations community voice to be heard. This comprehensive engagement and approvals process coupled with our principle of reciprocal accountability is a cornerstone of this health system’s transfer and transformation process, with communities leading the discussion.

A series of precedent-setting agreements between the Tripartite partners, including the 2005 Transformative Change Accord, the 2006 Transformative Change Accord: First Nations Health Plan,  the 2007 Tripartite First Nations Health Plan, and the 2011 British Columbia Tripartite Framework Agreement on First Nation Health Governance has led to the creation of the new First Nations Health Governance Structure of the First Nations Health Authority, First Nations Health Council and First Nations Health Directors Association – a first in Canada.

These agreements would not have been possible without the extensive community engagement process, engagement and approvals pathway, and leadership and unity shown by BC First Nations in electing to move forward with the historic transfer of health services from Health Canada’s First Nations Inuit Health Branch – Pacific Region to the First Nations Health Authority.
Our Seven Directives developed throughout the hundreds of provincial, regional, and sub-regional community meetings, workbooks and guiding documents describes the fundamental standards and instructions for the new health governance relationship.

Directive number one, ‘Community-Driven, Nation-Based’ captures the essence of the new First Nations Health Governance approach. With a united voice from BC First Nations leadership and through meaningful participation, willing partnerships, and a vision for better health outcomes, communities are mapping out the creation of a more effective, and innovative health system that will bring to life the vision of healthy, self-determining and vibrant BC First Nations children, families and communities.

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