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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Something more must be done to address the health challenges of Aboriginal seniors

Dr. Catherine Cook, councillor with the Health Council of Canada, is also a family physician, researcher, health care manager, and Métis. She currently has a joint role with the University of Manitoba and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. At the University of Manitoba, Dr. Cook is the Associate Dean for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Health in the Faculty of Medicine and is currently a leader of the newly established Section of First Nations, Métis and Inuit Health in the Department of Community Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine

 First Nations, Inuit and Métis seniors are indeed Canada’s most vulnerable population. We know that they do not receive the same level of health care as non-Aboriginal seniors. Interviews with key stakeholders, literature searches and consultations across Canada, undertaken by the Health Council of Canada during the winter and spring of 2013, confirmed some glaring facts:
  • Access to care is an issue. Most need to travel to urban areas for anything beyond the most basic care, with significant disruption to their lives.
  • They often fall victim to the vagaries of government policies at the federal and provincial levels as to what costs are covered by whom and who is eligible for what services.
  • There is little or no communication and coordination between services supported by governments, regional health authorities, and communities.
  • Many Aboriginal seniors don’t have the same level of care in their communities as non-Aboriginal Canadians, so their health conditions can become more severe, increasing the amount of care they need. 
The situation is exacerbated by the impact of colonization, residential school experiences and by determinants of health such as poverty, poor housing, racism, language barriers, and cultural differences. Geographic isolation also comes into play: Aboriginal seniors are also more likely than younger generations to live in rural and remote communities where the majority of the population is Aboriginal, and where they can be connected to their culture. The result is that they have more complex health needs and are often living in regions where it is more challenging and expensive to provide care.
The Health Council report provides context on these challenges and why it is important to provide additional support and seamless care to First Nations, Inuit, and Metis seniors.  Without this, an already vulnerable population is at even greater risk. This issue that requires immediate attention by Canadians and governments alike.
However, there are some promising examples from across Canada where governments, health regions, and Aboriginal communities have formed partnerships to improve health care for Aboriginal seniors. I invite you visit to read about these practices. 

1 comment:

  1. Great post. Most need to travel to urban areas for anything beyond the most basic care