ICAM 2024: Insights from the Panel on First Nations Health

April 19, 2024


Recently, the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) – Dr. Cornelia (Nel) Wieman and SFU Professor Dr. Jeffrey Reading participated in a compelling panel at ICAM 2024 event in Vancouver addressing critical topics surrounding data governance, community health representative (CHR) grants, and the lasting impacts of COVID-19 on First Nations communities. Delving deeper, the discussion shed light on pressing issues like youth suicide, mental health challenges, substance abuse, and the pervasive stereotypes faced by First Nations communities. Let's explore the insights shared and the path forward towards improving First Nations health.

Data Governance and Health Equity

One of the focal points of the discussion was the importance of data governance in promoting health equity among First Nations communities. Establishing robust data governance frameworks ensures that health data is collected, managed, and shared ethically and securely, leading to better-informed decision-making and resource allocation while protecting the rights and privacy of citizens.

Community Health Representative Grants

The speakers also emphasized the significance of CHR grants in supporting community health initiatives and research topics. These grants play a crucial role in helping researchers and practitioners to address health disparities, provide community safe care, and promote wellness within the communities. By investing in CHR programs, the FNHA aims to strengthen the healthcare infrastructure and improve access to essential services for First Nations individuals.

COVID-19's Impact on First Nations Communities

The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected First Nations communities, exacerbating existing health and social challenges. The panel highlighted the increased vulnerability of the community to the virus, as well as the economic and mental health toll it has taken. Despite these challenges, the resilience and adaptability of First Nations communities have been remarkable leveraging grants for ongoing research and showcasing the strength and unity in overcoming adversity.

Addressing Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Youth suicide, mental health issues, and substance abuse continue to be pressing concerns within First Nations communities. The discussion underscored the urgent need for culturally appropriate and trauma-informed mental health services to support individuals struggling with these issues. By prioritizing holistic wellness and community-driven solutions, the FNHA aims to combat stigma and provide comprehensive support to those in need.

Challenging Stereotypes and Promoting Cultural Awareness

Lastly, the importance of challenging stereotypes and promoting cultural awareness to foster understanding and inclusion was discussed. First Nations communities often face harmful stereotypes and discrimination, which can perpetuate disparities in healthcare and social services. By promoting education, empathy, and allyship, the FNHA strives to create a more inclusive and equitable society where First Nations voices are heard and respected.


Overall, the presentation provided valuable insights into the complexities of First Nations health and the ongoing efforts to address systemic challenges and promote holistic well-being. By prioritizing data governance, community empowerment, and cultural safety, the FNHA and SFU are paving the way for positive change and improved health outcomes for First Nations communities. As we move forward, it's essential to continue supporting these initiatives and advocating for all Indigenous peoples health equity here in Canada.

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