Two UNBC researchers are leading a $1.3 million project aiming to enhance Indigenous employment and cultural safety in health care.
Dr. Sarah de Leeuw and Dr. Margo Greenwood, together with northern and provincial partners, have embarked on a five-year research project focused on further enhancing Indigenous health in northern B.C.
It's the first joint federal research partnership grant of its kind to be held at UNBC, and is one of only nine such grants held across Canada, according to a press release. The work builds on a pilot project launched in 2016.
Greenwood and de Leeuw received $1.3 million as part of a Healthy and Productive Work Initiative — Partnership Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
“We are excited to have started this journey with our partners through which we will explore ways to celebrate Indigeneity in health care,” said de Leeuw, Northern Medical Program and Geography associate professor in the release.
“It’s an opportunity to develop northern-focused solutions that seek to create a more culturally humble health-care system that embraces Indigenous people and Indigenous knowledge.”
Over the course of five years, the project will focus on ways to transform health service delivery in northern B.C. — across existing organizations and professions — into a culturally safe and culturally humble environment in which to provide and receive care.
It also aims to inspire new generations of Indigenous youth in the North to enter the health-care field.
“We are going to look at what each of us in the North can do to help support our common goals in this project,” noted Greenwood, who is a First Nations Studies and Education professor and Northern Health vice president of Indigenous Health.
“This means getting together with stakeholders across the region, having good conversations around the issues, and encouraging people to be self-reflective on practice, programs and the system."
She says not one community, employer, post-secondary institution or organization can fulfil these goals on its own and it will take a partnered effort to fully address health care needs across the north in a culturally respectful way.
“Our project aspirations include teaching future health-care providers through experiential learning, training health researchers who will be writing policy and developing the knowledge landscape that health services will be provided within, and inspiring future Indigenous health care leaders,” added de Leeuw.
Key partners on the five-year project include numerous Indigenous and non-Indigenous stakeholders across the North, Northern Health, Two Rivers Gallery in Prince George, and the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health (NCCAH), according to the release. The Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR), also a major partner, is contributing an additional $130,000 in funding.
The project is also receiving support through in-kind contributions, valued at approximately $460,000, from the project’s other major partners, including Northern Health, Two Rivers Gallery, NCCAH and UNBC.
“Enhancing cultural safety is an important priority for our Northern region,” said Dr. Daniel Weeks, UNBC president in the release.
“The solutions and resources developed through this project in collaboration with Indigenous communities as well as other health-care stakeholders in the North will not only improve our regional health-care environment but also those in other jurisdictions across Canada and beyond.”
Other project participants include collaborators from the Northern Medical Program, UBC, and McMaster University. The First Nations Health Authority was a key partner in the 2016 pilot project.