Aboriginal Seniors among Canada's most vulnerable citizens


Little or no coordination between health care services provided by governments and health authorities according to new report

TORONTO, Nov. 28, 2013 /CNW/ - A new report by the Health Council of Canada says that governments must make a greater effort to collaborate to improve health care for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis seniors. The report, Canada's most vulnerable: Improving health care for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis seniors, shows they often do not receive the same level of health care as non-Aboriginal Canadians because of poor communication, collaboration, and disputes between governments about who is responsible for the care of Aboriginal people.

The Health Council says that little attention has been paid to date to the health care needs of Aboriginal seniors in either research or public policy. Yet in comparison to the larger Canadian population, a significantly higher proportion of Aboriginal seniors live on low incomes and in poor health, with multiple chronic conditions and disabilities. Many are in poorer physical and mental health due to the disruption to their way of life caused by colonization, particularly the intergenerational impacts and trauma of the residential school experience. These health needs are magnified by poverty, poor housing, racism, language barriers, and cultural differences.

"Aboriginal seniors have more complex health needs than other Canadian seniors, but they often don't receive the same level of care," says Dr. Catherine Cook, a Councillor with the Health Council of Canada who is Métis. Home care for First Nations seniors on reserve is one example discussed in the report. "In some provinces, there can be quite a discrepancy between the level of care available to First Nations seniors on reserve, and what is available to seniors in the rest of the province," she says. "At the same time, some provinces have inadvertently caused more pressure for on-reserve home care programs by creating policies that send people home earlier from the hospital."

The Health Council's report contains promising practices from across Canada where governments, health regions, and Aboriginal communities have formed partnerships to improve health care for Aboriginal seniors and other Aboriginal people. "The ground-breaking transfer of health authority to the new First Nations Health Authority in BC is the highest profile example of this type of partnership," says John G. Abbott, CEO of the Health Council of Canada. "We heard about many emerging partnerships at a local or regional level, where people were surveying Aboriginal seniors to find out their needs, and working together to make improvements," says Abbott.

The purpose of this report, he adds, is to give governments, regional health authorities, and health care providers a better understanding of the problems faced by First Nations, Inuit, and Métis seniors, and to provide them with examples of how they can do things differently.

To download the full report, visit: healthcouncilcanada.ca/improvinghealthcare.

About the Health Council of Canada

Created by the 2003 First Ministers' Accord on Health Care Renewal, the Health Council of Canada reports on the progress of health care renewal, and disseminates information on best practices and innovation across the country. The Councillors are appointed by the participating provincial and territorial governments and the Government of Canada. In April 2013, the federal government announced it will be winding up funding for the Council such that the Council will conclude its operations by March 31, 2014.

Video with caption: "Video: Saint Elizabeth First Nations Elder Care Course: Interview with Marney Vermette R.N., Engagement Liaison, Saint Elizabeth First Nation, Inuit and Métis Program". Video available at: http://youtu.be/FPdmZm3lcZM

Image with caption: "A new report by the Health Council of Canada says that governments must make a greater effort to collaborate to improve health care for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis seniors. (CNW Group/Health Council of Canada)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20131128_C5475_PHOTO_EN_33935.jpg

Image with caption: "Innovative Practices in Aboriginal Seniors Health Care (CNW Group/Health Council of Canada)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20131128_C5475_PHOTO_EN_33949.jpg

PDF available at: http://stream1.newswire.ca/media/2013/11/28/20131128_C5475_DOC_EN_33930.pdf

SOURCE: Health Council of Canada

For further information:

Or to arrange an interview please contact:

Natalie Pavlenko, Manager, Media Relations, Health Council of Canada
npavlenko@healthcouncilcanada.ca, O: 416-480-7082, C: 416-571-8912

Morgan Cadenhead, MAVERICK, 416-640-5525 x 240, morganc@wearemaverick.com

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