Addressing health care issues

The Okanagan Nation Alliance and UBC Okanagan have entered into a Community Research Agreement that aims to strengthen cultural safety and improve aboriginal health care in the Okanagan Valley.

UBC Okanagan cultural safety researchers include professors Rachelle Hole (left)

The Okanagan Nation Alliance and UBC Okanagan have entered into a Community Research Agreement that aims to strengthen cultural safety and improve aboriginal health care in the Okanagan Valley.

The project is titled Establishing Cultural Safety and Effecting Organizational Change for Aboriginal Health Care in Urban Centres of the Okanagan Valley.

One of the community partners to actively participate in the initiative is the Vernon Jubilee Hospital, located in the Okanagan Nation territory.

“In respect of a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2005, this research partnership establishes a relationship of active collaboration and participation that will build upon the working relationship between the ONA and UBC’s Okanagan campus,” said Pauline Terbasket, executive director of the ONA.

“It is an agreement that supports Syilx (Okanagan) and other aboriginal students to do research in the Syilx (Okanagan) territory to enhance mainstream programs and services for aboriginal people,” noted Vanessa Mitchell, the ONA health lead on the project.

UBCO principal investigators in the project, supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research operating grant, include Lawrence Berg, Rachelle Hole, Mike Evans and Joan Bottorff.

Other partners include representatives from the Okanagan Nation Alliance, Interior Health, The En’owkin Centre and the Friendship Centres.

“Cultural safety is about creating a safe space so Aboriginal people have a voice in determining personal and family health outcomes,” said Hole. “The practice of cultural safety in health care establishes an awareness of personal cultural realities and attitudes.

“In accordance with cultural safety practices, the project has developed as a participatory action research approach committed to the active engagement of members of Aboriginal communities and their institutions.”

“The CRA demonstrates a respectful dialogue and agreement between our community members and researchers working in our traditional territory to undertake research in a manner consistent with Syilx customs and protocols,” said Carmella Alexis, Syilx (Okanagan) Nation member and graduate student with the project.

The Okanagan Nation Alliance—representative of the Syilx (Okanagan) people—represents eight member communities—seven in Canada and one in the United States.

Much more information about cultural safety in the Okanagan is available from the Cultural Safety Project website www.ubc.ca/okanagan/culturalsafety/.