Indigenous Health Conference: Lessons learned

And we’re off! Another trip to spread the word of the DUDES. Our team travelled to Toronto to present at the Indigenous Health Conference, held May 26-27th. This conference is one of the only Indigenous Health Conferences in the country – a great opportunity to network and share the DUDES experiences. Individuals from every province and territory in Canada, along with international visitors, were present. We connected with professionals from many areas such as health care, public policy, community engagement, and research.

The conference started at 7:00 am on the 26th, so our team was up bright and early (4:00 am BC time, and most of us felt the jet lag) to see the keynote speakers. We were welcomed by Dr. Malcolm King of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nations, and then the conference began.

Throughout the rest of the conference, we were lucky to hear from many esteemed speakers. Margaret Froh, the newly elected president of the Métis Nation of Ontario, spoke on the history of Métis peoples, and on the recent Daniels v. Canada case (check out this link, or this one, for background information), in which it was decided that the Federal Government of Canada was responsible for the Métis people, as they are for the First Nations and Inuit. Dr. Ian Mosby discussed the nutrition experiments of residential schools, sharing some heavy and disturbing findings. Natan Obed, President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami shared the experiences of Inuit peoples currently living in Canada, noting abysmal housing and food insecurity. Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Professor and Executive Director of the First Nations and Family Caring Society of Canada spoke on how the Canadian government has systemically discriminated against children living on reserves, by providing them smaller amounts of funding when on child welfare. Many other speakers were present and shared moving stories or pertinent information – for the sake of length, we shall not describe them all in this blog.

During breaks, attendees were encouraged to peruse the research poster exhibit, which was set up by attendees wishing to share their research in poster form. Throughout the conference, attendees participated in multiple workshops and viewed several oral presentations. These ranged over several topics, all related to the main theme at the conference: Health and Reconciliation.

Our team learned much information pertinent to the work we are doing with the DUDES. For example, one of the workshops, entitled “Self-Determination Applied to Research: FNIGC and the Principles of OCAP®” reaffirmed the importance of OCAP when doing research with indigenous communities. An Oral Presentation called “Holistic health and self-determination in an urban Indigenous context: Outcomes from a traditional Indigenous healthcare initiative in Vancouver, Canada” shared results of a study investigating the importance of elders. It was excellent to see research specifically on this topic, as so many of our DUDES talk about the importance of having elders present within our club. Their findings indicated that elders are indeed an integral part of culture, and thus paramount to health. They ended by reiterating this idea: “Culture saves lives.” These are only two examples of the excellent information that was shared at the conference – all members of the team attended different sessions and we all gained a lot from the experience.

After the workshop presentation. From left to right - Henry Charles, Sandy Lambert (back), Lyana Patrick (front), Dr. Paul Gross, Dr. Vicki Smye, Viviane Josewski, and Iloradanon Efimoff

After the workshop presentation. From left to right - Henry Charles, Sandy Lambert (back), Lyana Patrick (front), Dr. Paul Gross, Dr. Vicki Smye, Viviane Josewski, and Iloradanon Efimoff

During the conference, we had the opportunity to present a workshop and oral presentation on the DUDES club. Both were highly successful. During the workshop, we shared the final documentary, ran through our informative presentation, and had our elders, Henry Charles and Sandy Lambert, facilitate an open dialogue with the attendees. We had a full room, with over 30 participants. Individuals were very interested in the club: they asked questions about the health outcomes our dudes experienced while attending the program and how to start their own DUDES clubs. They also shared their own experiences and frustrations in attempting to start men’s only health groups in their communities.

The Oral Presentation was short and sweet – with 10 minutes to talk and 5 minutes for questions. This presentation focused on our qualitative findings, which come out of multiple focus groups and interviews that we have completed to date. Again, we had a full room of very attentive listeners. Our findings were well received and we connected afterwards with attendees.

Overall, the conference was a huge success. All members of the team left feeling inspired and motivated to do more for our DUDES and our communities on a wider basis. We had the opportunity to network with some great partners, and develop new relationships with individuals who were inspired by our presentations to create their own DUDES Clubs. Here’s to another conference well done!