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VIHA Releases “Journey of Discovery” – A DVD About Cultural Safety as an Approach to Aboriginal Health in VIHA

March 28, 2012

It is not the medicine. It is not the pills, not the I.V. It’s the person – the care provider – who walks in who initiates the first step towards being well in the end. That relationship is critical.

~ Michael Dick, Kwakwaka’wakw Elder & Retired Nurse
From “Journey of Discovery”

Vancouver Island – Working with Aboriginal partners, the Vancouver Island Health Authority has developed and released a new DVD educational tool aimed at increasing cultural safety for Aboriginal people who are interacting with the health care system.Speaking at a ceremony at the Quinsam Centre on the We Wai Kai Nation /Cape Mudge as part of the VIHA board meeting in Campbell River this week, VIHA President and CEO Howard Waldner said: “VIHA serves broad and diverse populations, and we are not always as knowledgeable as we would like to be around the cultural practices of Aboriginal people.”

Added Waldner: “This new DVD is a crucial component of our cultural safety training tools for front line health care providers. The DVD provides an overview of traditional Aboriginal approaches to health care and medicine, as well as building understanding about how over 150 years of Aboriginal interaction with government agencies have shaped many Aboriginal people’s views of the modern health care system.”

The National Aboriginal Health Organization of Canada defines cultural safety as “what is felt or experienced by a patient when a health care provider communicates with the patient in a respectful, inclusive way, empowers the patient in decision-making and builds a health-care relationship where the patient and provider work together as a team to ensure maximum effectiveness of care.”

Since the creation of VIHA’s Aboriginal Health Council in 2008, the health authority has consistently heard that Aboriginal people face multiple barriers to receiving effective health care services. Obvious barriers include geographic limitations as many Aboriginal people live in rural and remote locations and have to travel long distances to receive care. But other barriers relate to a lack of cultural safety – where cultural differences, words and actions may lead to misunderstandings that negatively impact on an Aboriginal person’s care and care experience.

“Aboriginal people have the same goal as everyone else when we are in the health care system – the desire to be respected and understood,” said Chief David Bob, Co-Chair, VIHA Aboriginal Health Council. “Culture is an essential part of who we all are as individuals. Without understanding the culture, you cannot understand the individual. And if you don’t understand the individual, you cannot effectively care for and treat them.”

“Journey of Discovery” explores misconceptions that exist about First Nations/Aboriginal cultures and perceptions, and encourages VIHA staff to reflect on their own cultural attitudes, considering topics such as respect for the patient, respect for family and the importance being self aware, non-judgmental and compassionate.

The DVD is the latest in a continuum of initiatives aimed at improving Aboriginal people’s experience with the health care system. Other components of the program include workshops, written materials and on-line learning available through the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA). New, and where it is possible, renovated, VIHA facilities are including First Nations Healing Rooms where traditional cultural practices can take place. VIHA employs eight Aboriginal Liaison Nurses who work with First Nations patients, families, care providers and community agencies to provide culturally safe services. VIHA has also recently hired a Cultural Safety Coordinator who will offer local cultural safety training throughout VIHA programs and locations.

VIHA would like to thank Vancouver Island Aboriginal Partners for their help and support in developing “Journey of Discovery.” In particular, the health authority would like to recognize the Elders and others who took part in the film, as well as Ray McGuire, Barbara Hager of Arrow Productions and VIHA Multimedia Services.

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Attachment (1): Backgrounder for Journey of Discovery DVD (PDF)

Media Contact:
Valerie Wilson
VIHA Communications
250-739-6303