Improving access to primary care for Indigenous patients

Press Release

Indigenous Peoples in Alberta face significant health inequities. The government is deeply committed to taking meaningful action to advance reconciliation with First Nations, Métis and Inuit partners, and to improve health care outcomes for Indigenous people across the province.

That’s why Alberta’s government is investing $27.1 million towards two grants, the Indigenous Primary Health Care Innovation Fund (Innovation Fund) and the Indigenous Patient Navigator Program (Patient Navigator Program). This funding will help remove barriers faced by First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in accessing primary health care that aligns with cultural needs.

Alberta’s government is working together with Indigenous partners to provide improved access to health care. Two successful applicants will receive the Innovation Fund, and through the Patient Navigator Program, 18 organizations will receive up to $450,000 each in funding over three years.

“There is a significant amount of work we must do to rebuild trust with Indigenous Peoples – they face many challenges in accessing care, which has a profound impact on their health outcomes. Improving access to primary care is an important step for optimizing health. We are proud to provide funding so Indigenous communities can partner in the design and delivery of culturally safe care and improve the health of individuals, families and communities.”

Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Health

“Partnering with Indigenous communities to achieve better outcomes is what reconciliation is all about. These grant programs will help improve health equity for Indigenous people across the province through Indigenous-led solutions. I am so appreciative of the Indigenous communities and organizations supporting this critical work.”

Rick Wilson, Minister of Indigenous Relations

Alberta’s government will be investing $20 million over two years to support eligible projects under the Indigenous Primary Health Innovation Fund. This fund supports programs and services that improve community capacity and health equity in ways that honour and respect Indigenous expertise, knowledge and traditional healing. These include research, evaluation and assessment of primary care models, capital projects and investments, and programs to support health promotion and disease prevention.

Another $7.1 million over three years will support the Indigenous Patient Navigator Program, with each organization receiving a maximum of $450,000 over that time period. This program is intended to address the immediate challenges facing Indigenous patients, communities and organizations by providing financial support to First Nation, Métis and Inuit partners, and Indigenous-serving organizations. This funding will allow organizations to help reduce barriers to accessing primary care services across multiple service providers, support patient advocacy, increase access to resources and improve care co-ordination.

“Thanks to Alberta Health, the Alberta Indigenous Virtual Care Clinic (AIVCC), a virtual primary care clinic, will address the high number of unattached patients across Alberta by strengthening existing health care relationships and creating opportunities to build relationships with local physicians to promote equitable care for Indigenous populations.”

Michelle Hoeber, e-health manager/ AIVCC clinic manager, First Nations Technical Services Advisory Group Inc.

“With support from Alberta Health, Ihkapaskwa Collective will decrease barriers for Indigenous families accessing perinatal services and expand their cultural knowledge through Aunties within Reach (AWR) – a culturally and evidence-based program that employs a multi-service model and a wraparound approach to care.”

Sheena Bradley, executive director, Ihkapaskwa Collective

Over the last two years, Alberta Health has worked to engage with First Nations, Métis and Inuit stakeholders and patients to understand the deeply rooted challenges Indigenous Peoples face when accessing the health system.

To support this work, and as part of efforts to refocus Alberta’s health care system, Alberta Health has established a new division dedicated to Indigenous health and is making significant investments to remove barriers faced by Indigenous Peoples in accessing culturally safe primary care and building community-specific capacity to improve the circle of care and health outcomes.

Quick facts

  • The successful applicants for the Indigenous Primary Health Innovation Fund are:
    • First Nations Technical Services Advisory Group Inc.: Funding will expand the Alberta Indigenous Virtual Care Clinic and will also hire staff, develop health resources and increase cancer screening.
    • Métis Nation of Alberta: Expanding the Métis Nation of Alberta’s Medical Travel Program will improve health outcomes for Métis people in Alberta through increased access to primary health care.
  • Through the Indigenous Patient Navigator Grant, 18 organizations will receive up to $450,000 each in funding over three years:
    • Bearspaw First Nation
    • Cold Lake First Nation
    • Dene Tha’ First Nation
    • Edson Friendship Centre
    • Elizabeth Metis Settlement
    • First Nations Technical Services Advisory Group Inc.
    • High Level Native Friendship Centre Society
    • Ihkapaswka Collective
    • Kee Tas Kee Now Tribal Council
    • Lubicon Lake First Nation
    • Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA)
    • Metis Settlements General Council (MSGC)
    • NiGiNan Housing Ventures
    • O’Chiese First Nation
    • Paul First Nation
    • Peavine Metis Settlement
    • Siksika Health Services
    • Stoney Nakoda – Tsuut’ina Tribal Council Ltd.
  • Alberta is home to about 284,500 Indigenous people, representing 6.8 per cent of Alberta’s population.
  • From 2016 to 2021, Alberta’s Indigenous population grew at twice the rate as the province’s total population. The majority of Indigenous Peoples live in urban settings with 36.2 per cent of First Nations people in Alberta reside on reserve.
  • 2.8 per cent of Métis people reside on Settlements.

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