Study to focus on culturally-safe health care

By Shanan Sorochynski Posted: June 3, 2015 1:30 p.m.

Dr. Carrie Bourassa, professor of Indigenous Health Studies, First Nations University of Canada.
Dr. Carrie Bourassa, professor of Indigenous Health Studies, First Nations University of Canada. Photo: U of R Photography.

As a professor of Indigenous Health Studies at the First Nations University of Canada, Dr. Carrie Bourassa illuminates pressing social problems and seeks solutions in partnership with the people she serves.

Her latest project is a Canadian Institutes of Health Research funded initiative that sets out to develop a model for culturally-safe health care that meets the needs of Indigenous women infected with HIV/ AIDS and Hepatitis C.

The participation of community members is at the core of the project.  Numerous community groups are involved in guiding the direction of this study.

It includes: the use of two community-based navigators, Indigenous women who either have HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis C; Margaret Poitras, CEO for All Nations Hope Network, serving as a co-principal investigator for the study; and the involvement of groups such as the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN).

“This is not research that is being done “on” or “to” a community,” says Bourassa. “We are going to ensure that the research is meaningful and beneficial to the community and that it is done with, for and by the community.”

Over the course of the study this community-based team will oversee approximately 330 interviews with Indigenous women. Thirty of these interviews will be used for a video to educate health care providers about the issues, challenges and stories of the women who seek their services.  

According to Bourassa who is a recent inductee into the Royal Society of Canada, College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, a lot of research about Indigenous communities tends to focus on negative aspects such as poverty and drug use. This study will use an assets approach and focus on women’s strengths.

“What we want to do is talk to these women about where their hope is and their resilience and hear their stories,” says Bourassa. “This might be the first time that they ever get to tell their story, the very first time that they get to have a voice.

“The only way we are going to be able to change how care is delivered is if we ask them,” adds Bourassa. “They are the ones that know.”