First Nations Health Authority Regional Case
The First Nations Health Authority regional case builds on significant developments in health governance in BC. In 2013, programs and resources serving BC First Nations health and well-being were transferred to the FNHA, the first province-wide health authority of its kind in Canada. FNHA works with BC First Nations, federal, provincial, and non-governmental organizations to improve health outcomes for BC First Nations people.
Regional Case Updates
In October, Linda Pillsworth (FNHA Manager, Environmental Public Health Services) attended the BC Social Studies Teachers Association Professional Development Conference. She presented with Tom Okey (BC HUB LEO Network Coordinator) and Tracey Murphy (Social Studies teacher, Saanich School District No.63) on their work with the “Student – Elder Inquiry in Environmental Change” project on the LEO Network. The project and a teaching unit were well received and there was some keen interest in the Local Environmental Observer (LEO) Network being utilized as a tool in the classroom to explore the discussion on climate change and it’s impacts. A benefit noted during the workshops was that the LEO Network provides potential links across different disciplines such as science and social studies.
Our regional team is excited to have Lindsay Beck (FNHA Manager, Population Health & Wellness) back from her maternity leave and we are very thankful for Krista Stelkia’s participation on our case study team in Lindsay’s absence.
For the purposes of the First Nations Population Health and Wellness Agenda, a joint initiative between FNHA and Provincial Health Officer, we were tasked with identifying an indicator that represented an Indigenous understanding of the land-wellness connections that support First Nations physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. This indicator development process represents an opportunity to shift the paradigm from a seeing the environment as a source of hazards towards an innovative, health promoting and strengths-based approach which fosters reciprocal maintenance – “to take care of each other, our communities and our natural environment” (Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion, 1986). For Indigenous peoples around the globe, the land is paramount. Their and all of humankind’s health and wellness is inextricably linked to land – the source of life. To further this ‘ecological health indicator’ work, a series of Knowledge Holder Workshops will be occurring in February 2019 where community perspectives, knowledge and stories will be shared.
The FNHA Regional Case team has been busy presenting around the province! Early May 2018 kicked off the presentations at the Columbia Mountains Institute of Applied Ecology: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Managing Health of Fish and Wildlife Conference in Kimberly, British Columbia. The presentation introduced the Local Environmental Observer (LEO) Network to the group and how it could be used for the surveillance of ecological changes. The LEO Network was well received and the Tahltan Central Government and Tahltan Guide & Outfitters Association invited us to present at the Northern Wildlife.
We recognized that this was a great opportunity to work with First Nation communities in the NW BC so we quickly got our ‘ducks in a row’ to make the trek up to the opposite end of the province for June 1 -2, 2018. Jordan Brubacher (Research Assistant) presented on the cumulative anthropogenic disturbance maps he has been working on and Dionne Sanderson (Regional Case Coordinator) introduced the LEO Network. It was an excellent symposium. The disturbance map stimulated some great conversations among attendees around resource development and the LEO Network was viewed as a valuable tool that could be put to use in the northwest BC.
FNHA Regional Case team members have had a busy start to 2018, including planning its engagement in the Gathering Our Voices event (March 20-23, 2018; www.gatheringourvoices.ca) and progressing Local Environmental Observer (LEO) Network activities. In collaboration with team members of the regional case, Jordan Brubacher is continuing work on integrating multiple spatial data sets into a single and easy to read map describing the total physical human impact on the environment. The team is calling this cumulative impact “anthropogenic disturbance”. Such a map is helpful when trying to combine the large amount of spatial data describing human activities that has become available in recent years such as roads, forest cut blocks, mines and oil wells.
Ecological disturbance is associated with many ecosystem services that rural and remote communities are disproportionately dependent upon. The regional case has also begun exploring ways to describe and visualize associations between social determinants of health and anthropogenic disturbance. The final map will be made available for public use in the coming weeks via the UNBC Stewardship Portal.
The two SFU Co-leads of the regional case, Maya Gislason (PI) and Tim Takaro, are currently pursuing funding opportunities to bring together key researchers, decision makers and partners affiliated with the ECHO Network and the Canadian Urban Environmental Health Research Consortium (CANUE) to further conversations regarding how to meaningfully apply an integrative health equity lens to complex social and environmental health issues, a key aspect of ECHO Network research.
The BC Hub for the Local Environmental Observer (LEO) Network has hosted a few more great monthly webinars since our last update. The most recent webinar’s focus was on “LEO in the Classroom”. Tracey Murphy, asocial studies teacher with Saanich School District on Vancouver Island, shared her experience of introducing the LEO Network to her grade 10 class. Her class has just begun to dive into the LEO Network and the benefits of using this platform are already being identified. A few examples of these benefits are that the students are learning new skills, learning and engaging with the Elders in their communities and the LEO Network is providing a platform for teachers to integrate Indigenous Knowledge into their curriculum. It is very exciting to see how this work will progress over the school year! The webinar session was recorded so if you are keen to listen to the session please contact us.
Our regional case team had our first meeting in early October and we are having our second meeting in the middle of December. FNHA has been working on the development of an ecological indicator for health and the approval of overarching research ethics related to the ECHO Network project. Jordan Brubacher, Research Assistant working with our regional case, has been creating great GIS visualizations (i.e. maps) exploring the anthropogenic exposures on the environment for potential use in environmental health research.
We continue to have monthly webinars for the BC Local Environmental Observer (LEO) Network. Cait Nelson, Wildlife Health Biologist from Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resource Operations, provided a presentation on “Understanding Chronic Wasting Disease” (CWD) during our July webinar and there is now a CWD Project on LEO to help track this disease throughout BC. Our outreach for the LEO Network continues and we are currently working with other LEO hubs to develop LEO lesson plans to be utilized in classrooms to engage youth in the LEO Network.
The wildfire situation in BC this summer has kept FNHA very busy and highlights the significance of extreme weather due to climate change. Heavy smoke has blanketed the southern half of BC for almost two weeks now and hopes are for rain and a change in weather patterns in the forecast soon!
Our core team has some changes occurring with one of our Knowledge Users, Lindsey Beck, going on maternity leave. We are happy to announce that Nicole Cross, FNHA Regional Director of the Northern region, will be joining the ECHO Steering Committee. We are in the process of organizing our initial regional hub meeting so the team can come together late August / early September.