lfpress (Jan 12) Western University heading up Indigenous health network

Western University has emerged as a centre for Indigenous health research, leading a provincewide network of 13 institutions, the school announced Thursday.

The Indigenous Mentorship Network Program of Ontario was launched and health-care research for Indigenous people, by Indigenous people, may see more health-care support and staff in Indigenous communities across the province, said Jennifer Walker, a health services researcher and epidemiologist at Laurentian University, who will work with the program.

“We will see more nurses, social workers, doctors, coming out of this. It is meant to be supportive of researchers, but that whole investment in the health field means more people attending university, going through nursing programs and schools of medicine,” said Walker. “It is a ripple effect, but I think it will be there.”

The program centred in London will focus on having more Indigenous people doing research on health and social issues that affect Indigenous communities. Communities across Northern Ontario will work on advisory committees, offering input, she added.

Chantelle Richmond, associate geography professor at Western, will lead the program and believes it offers “hope and inspiration” to young Indigenous people.

“We want to invest our money in students who have a vision about applying community health research,” said Richmond.

“We are investing in research. We are transforming what the university looks like. We want to invest our money in students who have a vision about applying community health research.”

It will also create greater resources of information in communities so they can be “self-determining in their futures,” she added.

The program has received $1 million in funding from the Canadian Institute for Health Research and $1.2 million from partners, over the next five years.

“For far too long, Indigenous health research has been done by non-Indigenous people. This is an Indigenous-led network. We are going to prioritize our Indigenous students to address community-based issues,” said Richmond.

Ira Timothy, communications co-ordinator at the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians in ­London, cheered the news, saying he hopes it filters down to more community health-care staff and programs.

“It is a fantastic initiative,” said Timothy. “We are always hoping to have more people in health care in the communities. We need more aboriginal doctors and nurses. Those would be the long-term results. It shows how far we have come.”

Research also will be done at Lakehead, Laurentian and Nipissing universities, at Health Sciences North in Sudbury and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine in that city and Thunder Bay. Participants include McMaster, Guelph and Toronto universities and St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

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Health Canadacihr logo1This initiative has been generously funded by grants from Health Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the funders.