June Lunch and Learn celebrates National Indigenous Peoples Day

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VPSA’s Engaging Physicians in Indigenous Cultural (EPIC) Safety Task Group took centre stage for our June 21 Lunch and Learn. Long-time committee member and family physician Dr. Jay Slater spoke on behalf of EPIC. Dr. Slater spent his residency in Newfoundland and Labrador, which was where he became aware of the inequity of health outcomes for Indigenous peoples. He now works in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood, where he is often reminded of the ongoing imbalance in our health-care system when it comes to the urban Indigenous population.

Dr. Slater said he was honoured to share information about EPIC and its goals and purpose on National Indigenous Peoples Day. He reminded us that cultural safety is important. Indigenous peoples across Canada face many challenges in their daily lives that impact their health and well-being. This is reflected in the poor health outcomes and social problems that are disproportionate to other populations.

There were several steps that helped build the case for the EPIC Task Group. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released seven calls to action in 2015 that were specifically about health care. After this, VCH began offering Indigenous Cultural Safety training in 2018 as part of its commitment to becoming a culturally safe organization. The In Plain Sight report landed in 2020, with 24 recommendations to address systemic Indigenous-specific racism in the provincial health system. BC’s College of Physicians and Surgeons updated practice standards in 2022 regarding access to medical care without discrimination. The Province’s UNDRIP action plan in 2022 included expectations to improve the health and well-being of Indigenous families.

The stage was set with the provincial government’s funding of the interCultural Online Health Network (iCON) at UBC. In collaboration with iCON Indigenous, VPSA created its EPIC Task Group. Its mission is to prioritize and advance Indigenous cultural safety in health-care settings and is guided by meaningful partnerships with iCON and the provincial government, along with VCH Indigenous Health, and the First Nations Health Authority. EPIC works to engage medical staff in the co-creation of education resources and learning opportunities around Indigenous cultural safety principles and how these can be effectively implemented.

iCON-VCH Indigenous Health Rounds (IHRs) play an important part. These rounds bring Indigenous voices to health-care professionals for knowledge sharing, dialogue and discussing ways to advance culturally safe care for Indigenous patients and families. There have been 13 IHRs to date and all can be viewed online. Feedback has been impressive: 94 per cent of participants surveyed report they learned something that will help them provide/facilitate culturally safe care, while 93 per cent felt more confident in engagement Indigenous patients and families in health-care conversations.

The task group is now collaborating with an Indigenous artist to showcase infographics based on the IHRs and plans to develop six more of these. Physicians attending IHRs are eligible for Mainpro+ credits; iCON is also considering to apply for reflective credits that require physicians to reflect on practice, activity, and change.

The next IHR is Wednesday, July 17. Duane Jackson and Cooper Jackson from the Gitxsan Nation are the guest speakers for Walking Softly Through Mental Health, which  will be co-moderated by Cathy Almost and Dr. Kendall Ho. Participants will learn about ways to support Indigenous patients based on In Plain Sight Recommendation #17: “That the B.C. government and FNHA demonstrate progress on commitments to increase access to culturally safe mental health and wellness and substance use services.” Registration is open.

VPSA offers Lunch and Learn sessions on the third Friday of most months (we’re taking July and August off). Attend either in person in the VMDAS Hub for Engagement at VGH or online. Representatives from each of our task groups and committees offer short (20-30 minute) presentations about their latest initiatives and opportunities. Keep your eye out for your weekly Checkup newsletter for registration details.

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