Assembly of First Nations National Chief Calls for Transformative Change, Urges First Nation Meaningful Engagement in Health Accord Renewal

OTTAWA, Nov. 25, 2011 /CNW/ - As provincial and territorial health ministers meet in Halifax today, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo continues to urge meaningful engagement of First Nations in achieving fair and equitable health service delivery based on community needs.

"First Nations want to work together with all levels of government to achieve transformative change that will lead to improved health outcomes and wellness for our citizens and communities," said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo.  "Building support and capacity for First Nation-led plans based on the priorities of our people is an approach we're taking forward across all sectors to achieve an improved quality of life for our citizens based on First Nation rights, jurisdiction and the Treaties."

Provincial and territorial health ministers are meeting in Halifax this week to discuss the future of the country's health-care system. The current provincial-federal health accord ends in 2014.

"First Nations must be engaged meaningfully in discussions leading toward the renewal of a federal Health Accord," said National Chief Atleo.  "First Nations are leading the way forward to achieve effective and appropriate health services and health service delivery for our peoples.  First Nation jurisdiction over health service delivery in our communities must be respected, particularly when our plans for improved health outcomes are based on the needs and priorities of our citizens,  Recognition and affirmation of First Nations control of First Nations health must be the new way forward in achieving improved health for our peoples."

First Nation leaders and health experts met in Ottawa earlier this month for the AFN National Health Forum which showcased new and innovative approaches to health being led by First Nations in ways that respect need, traditional knowledge and jurisdiction. National Chief Atleo released a communiqué following the AFN National Health Forum, identifying key areas requiring action. The communiqué states the importance of working together with governments and across all sectors to achieve equitable and sustainable funding that is culturally-relevant and respectful of First Nation knowledge, rights and jurisdiction.  The communiqué also states the need for governments to affirm and implement the Treaty right to health and the principles set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

First Nation communities have a rate of youth suicide 5-7 times higher than other Canadians and a rate of TB infection 30 times the national average.  The life expectancy of First Nation citizens is five to seven years lower than the Canadian average.  First Nation people face high rates of chronic and communicable disease, and are exposed to greater health risks because of poor housing, contaminated water and limited access to healthy foods and employment opportunities. First Nation citizens are four times more likely to experience Type 2 Diabetes than other Canadians - that means one in five First Nation citizens has diabetes.

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN and National Chief Atleo on Twitter @AFN_Updates, @AFN_Comms and @NCAtleo. 

SOURCE ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS

For further information:

Jenna Young, AFN Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 401 or cell: 613-314-8157 or jyoung@afn.ca

Alain Garon, AFN Bilingual Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 382 or cell: 613-292-0857 or e-mail agaron@afn.ca

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