Self-Determination at the Heart of Health and Healing for Canada's Aboriginal Communities: What We Learned from the Building on Strengths Roundtable Dialogue at Rideau Hall
The National Expert Commission and Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) have wrapped up an exciting roundtable with 28 leaders from across Canada who delivered renewed energy and insights that can inform the Commission’s forthcoming recommendations about Aboriginal health and healing. The national round table was hosted at Rideau Hall, the home of Canada's Governor General, by Her Excellency Sharon Johnston. His Excellency, the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, attended the opening and closing sessions and addressed the participants.
The roundtable focused on three themes: a) the social, economic and environmental determinants of health, b) chronic diseases and c) children, families and communities – the latter being a special interest and priority for Their Excellencies. The ultimate goal was to find solutions to improve the health and healing of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, families and communities. Participants included nurses and physicians, health advocates from government and NGOs, educators and scientists from across Canada.
Some of the important messages emerging from the conversations have strong resonance with others the Commission has been hearing across Canada in many communities; others were more unique to these populations. Key among them, we heard:
The need for a system transformation is urgent.
There is a need to move away from isolated silos in funding, service delivery and policy, and to take a broadly-integrated view of the policies, funding and services that are absolutely essential to achieving individual, community and family health, wellness and healing.
In all this the Commission heard clear messages about dismantling rigid barriers that separate health, health-care and social services, when, for real people, those issues are inter-related and inter-dependent in their lives every day.
Simply put, the Commission heard a strong call for the value of a broad primary health care orientation and an integrated approach to individual and community health.
The role of nursing in helping Canadians to achieve better health
There was clear articulation of the need for nurses to support all dimensions of health - including the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social.
Addressing broad social, economic, environmental and indigenous determinants and their effect on health outcomes is key to achieving individual and community health, healing, and wellness.
Thinking “globally” is important; but we must discover, develop, implement and evaluate community- and people-driven solutions that really work.
Nurses and other providers must deliver every service focused on the identified needs and context of those who seek and need services or care (not the needs of providers and systems).
Nurses must be equipped with the tools to deliver “trauma-informed care,” whatever the context of that trauma.
The Commission heard about the importance of trust and of relationships built with individuals and communities over time as being vital to better health.
The Commission will analyze the results of the roundtable to identify priority areas that can inform its forthcoming report to the CNA. But all the results of the day also will be shared with CNA, whose president, Judith Shamian, and CEO, Rachel Bard, were in the group along with Winnipeg-based Board member Claire Betker. Judith Shamian shared her excitement about the conversations held throughout the day, and committed to sharing the energy and ideas coming from the roundtable with CNA’s Board of Directors in its upcoming meeting (April 2012). She assured the group of the enthusiasm of the Board about the Commission; the Board is committed to receiving the report in June and will act decisively on recommendations that can leverage nursing to contribute to our shared goals of better health, better care and better value.