First Nations to take control of health at research centres

A national network of research centres designed to allow First Nations to direct and control examination of health issues they identify themselves was announced Tuesday.

Federal Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor announced the $100.8-million program at a ceremony at the First Peoples House at the University of Victoria.

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“True reconciliation in health means empowering Indigenous peoples to take control of their own destinies,” said Petitpas Taylor.

“When it comes to health, that means research,” she said. “Put simply, health-research really is the silver bullet.”

The program will establish nine research centres across Canada to look at health concerns of Native peoples. A co-ordinating centre will also be established.

Competition to be named as one of the research centres will be open until Sept. 4 and winners are expected to be named on Dec. 18. UVic is preparing a proposal.

The new centres are expected to conduct research into health issues identified by people within Native communities. Research will be conducted with an eye toward the priorities, values and cultures of Native peoples.

It is also expected to support Indigenous students as they pursue post-graduate research into Native health issues.

Petitpas Taylor said Canada’s public health system is clearly not serving Native peoples well, as public health statistics show. She told the audience Indigenous people have a rate of heart disease 50 per cent higher than the general population. Death from strokes is double. Indigenous people living on reserves are three times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV, diabetes or HPV.

“While Canadians are proud of their health-care system, we must acknowledge that all too often Indigenous peoples don’t fully benefit from it,” said Petitpas Taylor.

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