Sept. 10, 2020

Provincial research network aims to improve health outcomes for Indigenous Peoples

Researchers receive $3.5 million from Canadian Institutes of Health Research

An Alberta-based research network is emphasizing innovation and greater collaboration with communities to guide improvements to primary health care and advance health outcomes of Indigenous Peoples.

The network includes researchers from the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine (CSM), Mount Royal University, the University of Alberta and Queen’s University. Researchers received $3.5 million over five years from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) through the Network Environments for Indigenous Health Research (NEIHR) program.

Dr. Lindsay Crowshoe, MD, the group’s lead investigator and an associate professor at the CSM, says the network aims to improve Indigenous health equity by building capacity for uniquely Indigenous solutions.

“The network is designed in the spirit of generating and sharing innovative knowledge and moving that knowledge into action with community more directly,” says Crowshoe, pictured above. “Bringing a research lens to the primary health care and policy decision-making table will ensure research is relevant to the community’s priorities, needs and interests.”

The network’s virtual launch in June included sharing best practices and innovations already occurring within Indigenous primary care in the province during the COVID-19 pandemic. These included an incident command structure with weekly video conferences involving 46 Indigenous health centres, a  COVID response unit going to homes seven days a week to conduct testing, offering language translations within call centres, and co-ordinating translation for Indigenous Elders.

In developing the network, lead investigators consulted Indigenous stakeholders across the province, aligning with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2015) 94 Calls to Action, which calls on Canadians to take part in the path toward reconciliation. The Calls to Action challenge organizations and institutions to begin active and assertive planning for the journey toward reconciliation.

Blackfoot Elder Leroy Little Bear highlights the importance of primary health care in connecting to Indigenous knowledge, noting that Indigenous Peoples “have historically experienced socioeconomic disadvantages, social injustices, and health inequities that have greatly impacted our well-being, yet our communities have continued to flourish and retain our unique cultural identity in the face of these challenges by drawing on the intrinsic strengths and resilience embedded in cultural values and models by our Elders.”

The network also currently has a call for proposals offering seed grant funding of $10,000 to Indigenous-led innovations in care to spark community-driven research that facilitates Indigenous primary health-care system innovation and transformation within Alberta. The deadline to participate is Oct. 31. Learn more.

The research team is led by Dr. Lindsay Crowshoe, MD (University of Calgary) and includes Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, MD (Alberta Health Services Population, Public, and Indigenous Health Strategic Clinical Network), Dr. Cheryl Barnabe MD, (University of Calgary), Dr. Andrea Kennedy, PhD (Mount Royal University), Dr. Adam Murry, PhD (University of Calgary), Dr. Michael Green, MD  (Queen’s University), Dr. Rita Henderson, PhD (University of Calgary), Dr. Stephanie Montesanti, PhD (University of Alberta), Dr. Pamela Roach, PhD (University of Calgary), and Dr. Cara Bablitz, MD (University of Alberta). 

For more information, please visit the IPHCPR network’s website.

ii’ taa’poh’to’p, the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy, is a commitment to deep evolutionary transformation by reimagining ways of knowing, doing, connecting and being. Walking parallel paths together, ‘in a good way,’ UCalgary is moving toward genuine reconciliation and Indigenization.