City collaboratively launches its first Indigenous Health Strategy

Press Release

August 23, 2023

HAMILTON, ON – Last week, City Council approved its first Indigenous Health Strategy, which aims to improve the health and well-being of Indigenous individuals in Hamilton and reduce health disparities.

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. Interviews with leaders of Indigenous organizations and a survey for Indigenous community members were conducted to inform the Strategy.

Results identified many opportunities for growth in 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. The results also underscored the importance of self-determination and cultural safety in all services provided by HPHS. The recommendations were organized into the following themes:

  • Relationship Building
  • Communication
  • Staffing and Governance
  • Collaboration and Co-development
  • Equitable and Safe Services
  • Resources
  • Advocacy
  • Access to Indigenous Traditional Knowledge and Practices

In 2019, an Indigenous health strategy specialist was hired to support this work and will also assist with the recommendations and implementation of the Strategy. They will play a key role in strengthening relationships with the Indigenous community while continuing to collaborate and coordinate with the City’s Indigenous Relations team, ensuring support and alignment for this Strategy and the City’s Urban Indigenous Strategy.

Interviews with Indigenous leaders took place from August 2019 to February 2020, with a follow-up in September 2020 to ask respondents to review responses and provide feedback on how COVID-19 had impacted their communities since their initial interview. A community survey was also made available from June 2022 to December 2022.

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.

A detailed implementation plan of the Strategy will be completed and presented to council at the end of 2024 to allow for fulsome engagement, consultation and collaboration with the Indigenous community and leaders.

Quick Facts

  • The Indigenous Health Strategy was developed based on the principles outlined in Ontario’s Public Health Standards Relationship with Indigenous Communities Guideline, 2018, which include, relationship building, recognition, respect and mutuality, self-determination, timely communication and knowledge exchange and coordination.
  • Self-determination by the Indigenous community will be central focus guiding the strategy as Indigenous health outcomes are optimal when Indigenous people determine and control the programs, services and systems designed to improve their health.
  • Recommendations within this Strategy also align with several action items within the City’s Urban Indigenous Strategy.

I wish to thank the Indigenous community members who contributed to developing Hamilton’s first Indigenous Health Strategy. Our continued commitment to fostering an inclusive and equitable healthcare environment that respects and supports Indigenous cultures and traditions is demonstrated through this strategy. The health and well-being of all Hamiltonians remains a priority for me and my Council colleagues.

Mayor Andrea Horwath

The Indigenous view of health and healing is wholistic, encompassing physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. 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.

Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Medical Officer of Health

Additional resources

Hamilton’s Indigenous Health Strategy Report


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