News / Vancouver

UBC and First Nations Health Authority partner to improve Indigenous health

The $3 million project recognizes the role of colonization and racism in creating the health challenges First Nations communities face today

UBC President Santa Ono and Joe Gallagher, chief executive officer of the FNHA, announce a new chair to improve cancer outcomes and wellness among First Nations and Indigenous peoples.

Lindsey Donovan Photography/Contributed

UBC President Santa Ono and Joe Gallagher, chief executive officer of the FNHA, announce a new chair to improve cancer outcomes and wellness among First Nations and Indigenous peoples.

UBC is putting $1.5 million toward improving the health and cancer outcomes for First Nations communities by funding a new research position that will work with the First Nations Health Authority.

The FNHA is donating another $1.5 million toward the position, which will have $3 million of funding in total to develop strategies to prevent cancer while acknowledging how colonization has led to the current health challenges First Nations communities face.

Indigenous communities (except Metis youth) report lower levels of overall health compared to non-Aboriginal populations, according to 2012 Statistics Canada report. Colonization and a history of marginalization and racism have contributed to that disparity in health outcomes.

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The FNHA hopes this partnership helps First Nations take control of their health.

“The FNHA looks forward to partnering with UBC on this chair as an initial step to creating a broader collaborative relationship to address First Nations health and wellness in the spirit of reconciliation,” said Joe Gallagher, CEO of FNHA.

The research chair will not only analyze epidemiological data from First Nations communities, it will also chronicle oral traditions about health and wellness.

It’s a step in the right direction, said Johnna Sparrow-Crawford, a member of the Musqueam band.

“Drawing on all parts of our beliefs is critically important because it’s all tied together – mental, physical and spiritual,” said Sparrow-Crawford, who is a breast-cancer survivor.

“I think that we absolutely need to blend the two worlds together in prevention and treatment of cancer for our people – it’s a win-win solution.”

UBC and FNHA have started looking for someone to fill the position. The researcher will work out of both UBC’s Faculty of Medicine as well as FNHA, located in the traditional territory of the Coast Salish people in North Vancouver.    

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