Hamilton moves to improve Indigenous residents’ well-being, health services

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Published August 23, 2023 at 12:55 pm

The City of Hamilton has launched its first Indigenous Health Strategy aiming to improve the health and well-being of Indigenous residents.

The strategy, which was approved by City council last week, will focus on self-determination by the Indigenous community, allowing Indigenous residents to determine and control the programs, services and systems designed to improve their health.

“The Indigenous view of health and healing is wholistic, encompassing physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being,” said Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton’s medical officer of health, in a statement. “We are committed to working in partnership with Hamilton’s Indigenous community to ensure their needs are met and they have equitable access to safe and culturally appropriate services.”

Based on interviews with Indigenous leaders and the community, Hamilton Public Health Services said it found many opportunities for improving and expanding health services, including traditional healing and wellness, mental health supports, access to housing, connection to land and ceremony space, diabetes teachings and support, and community and cultural programming. 

“Our continued commitment to fostering an inclusive and equitable healthcare environment that respects and supports Indigenous cultures and traditions is demonstrated through this strategy,” said Mayor Andrea Horwath in a statement. “The health and well-being of all Hamiltonians remains a priority for me and my Council colleagues.”

Their findings from consultations also highlighted the importance of self-determination and cultural safety, allowing people to feel safe in an environment free from racism and discrimination, in all services. 

“Some immediate next steps based on the recommendations will include providing ongoing Indigenous cultural safety education for staff, increasing Indigenous representation within HPHS, and establishing an Indigenous health governance circle to guide Indigenous health initiatives,” the City announced in a press release today (Aug. 23).

A detailed implementation plan will be done and presented to council at the end of 2024 after more consultation and collaboration with the Indigenous community and leaders.

Hamilton Public Health Services had interviewed leaders of Indigenous organizations and conducted a survey on Indigenous community members to help formulate the strategy.

“Recognizing the historical and ongoing impact of colonialism on Indigenous health, Hamilton Public Health Services (HPHS) has engaged in a comprehensive and collaborative process with Indigenous leaders and community members in Hamilton,” the City wrote in a press release.

An Indigenous health strategy specialist who was hired in 2019 will help with the recommendations and implementation of the strategy. 

Indigenous leaders were interviewed from August 2019 to February 2020 as well as September 2020, which was a follow-up on how COVID-19 had affected their communities. A community survey was done from June 2022 to December 2022.  

 

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