Assembly of First Nations National Chief Opens National Health Forum; Calls for First Nations Control of First Nations Health

OTTAWA, Nov. 7, 2011 /CNW/ - Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo today kicked off the AFN National Health Forum, calling for recognition and affirmation of First Nation jurisdiction over health service delivery in First Nation communities. The Forum brings together First Nation health experts and leaders from every region of the country and is the largest such gathering hosted by AFN in over a decade.

"First Nations are continuing to advance plans for a new way forward, where we are in control of our own health outcomes, to better achieve improved health and wellness for our citizens and communities," said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo, adding that building First Nation capacity and systems is an approach that First Nations are taking forward broadly to achieve improved quality of life for their citizens and communities.

"First Nations control of First Nations health, combined with First Nation-driven, new and innovative approaches to health and wellness, must be the new way forward," said National Chief Atleo.  "No longer will we take a back seat. We are taking action, and moving forward.  First Nation rights, responsibilities and jurisdiction must be respected and First Nation plans and governments must be supported to implement equitable and culturally-relevant health systems that will achieve better outcomes for our peoples."

This AFN National Health Forum taking place November 7-9, 2011, will showcase the good work being done by First Nations across Canada driving change to achieve improved health and health service delivery in ways that respect First Nations traditional knowledge and jurisdiction. Under the theme "Taking Action to Move Forward", the three-day forum will highlight examples of First Nation-driven community based plans for sustainable health delivery in ways that address the social determinants of health, such as education and economic development.

The Forum will also provide opportunities to engage partnerships focused on improved health outcomes for First Nations. It will feature experts and leaders in health innovation from across Canada and the world, including Carol Hopkins, Madeleine Dion Stout, Dr. Tom Calma and many others, on ways similar approaches and models can be applied in ways that will work for First Nations. It is the first of its kind in over 10 years, gathering nearly 1000 First Nation health directors, health technicians and health experts from all regions across Canada.

"This, like all our work is critical and timely," said National Chief Atleo. "The 2004 federal Health Accord is up for renewal in 2014. This means we have just over two years to ensure that First Nations are part of the process and that we are leading the way forward in setting effective and appropriate health services and health service delivery for our 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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ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS

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