This is a true partnership

Working Together yields impressive results for Métis health and wellness

Health Summit 2015 crowd
Assembled delegates at the MNO Health Summit listen to a
panel of Health experts discuss ground-breaking research
into Métis health issues.

The 2015 Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Health Summit drew to a very successful close on Tuesday, February 24, 2015. Over 200 delegates from 42 different agencies attended including representatives from non-profit organizations dedicated to disease prevention and cures, hospitals and other health institutions, government ministries and agencies, universities and colleges, Local Health Integration Networks, Aboriginal organizations and consulting groups. These representatives included medical doctors, university professors and researchers, government policy makers and elected officials.

What drew this distinguished and influential audience to Toronto for the three-day Summit was ground-breaking research carried out by the MNO Chronic Disease Surveillance Program in concert with a number of key partners including the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and Cancer Care Ontario (CCO). The Research provided the latest available data on coronary heart disease, diabetes, cancer, respiratory disease, musculoskeletal disease, renal disease, mental health, and health risk factors in the provincial Métis population. The data demonstrates that significant health disparities exist between Métis and the general Ontario population. Full details of this research will be available on the MNO website in the future. 

The value of the relationship between the MNO and its research partners were underscored by Dr. Michael Schull, the President and CEO of ICES. “To me what’s really important is that this is not just a collaboration between ICES and the Métis Nation of Ontario,” he stated, “this is a true partnership.”

“This is not just about data exchange,” he added. “That’s just a first step towards an exchange of much deeper knowledge, and that’s knowledge on many levels. It’s scientific knowledge, it’s cultural knowledge, it’s historic knowledge, it’s about social knowledge. It’s all of that. Today [at the Health Summit] makes this kind of remarkable and I think in many ways ground-breaking partnership for our organization, and I would say it’s a model for us to look at as we engage with other partners and stakeholders in many [areas] of our society.”

The importance of partnership was also stressed by Richard Steiner, a Senior Project Analyst with CCO’s Aboriginal Cancer Control Unit.  “I think one of the most important things for us,” he stated, “was really, after having formalized this relationship which outlines how we can practically and ideologically move forward together in terms of our collaborative work with the MNO, was really to understand who the Métis are, how the Métis operate, what the Métis people need as directed and governed by the Métis Nation of Ontario, and how we can best support the Métis in what they need.”

“I think we got a good picture today [at the Health Summit] in terms of understanding where we need to go and what we need to do,” he added. “It’s very good to have that validation and understand that we are on the right course in terms of what we’re doing with prevention, screening, supportive care, relationship building, outreach, education – all of these priorities that we have. But again, I’ll bring it back to understanding from the Métis perspective. That’s what we need and it was a huge learning curve, I think, for us over the last few years in terms of working with the MNO, and it’s been growing and growing. We’ve been working very, very closely with the MNO Healing and Wellness branch to develop this relationship . . . in terms of working together.”

The partnership between the MNO and leading health agencies like CCO and ICES has led to a unique Métis approach to research that is very practical. This was explained by Dr. Martin Cooke, a Professor in the School of Public Health and Health Systems from the University of Waterloo. “One [thing] is the excellent level of integration of the research in the MNO’s agenda, explained Dr. Cooke. “Often research is done as sort of a separate function from either healthcare service provision or planning or whatever; it’s important but it doesn’t always make it onto the main agenda. As researchers often we don’t see the findings reflected in action. What was really interesting here is all of the talk about action and how those determinants of health, for example, are really important, and then the next question is what do we do with next steps.”

Dr. Cooke added: “One of the things that’s important for our own research but also for others, is understanding what’s going on at the community level, and how these things that we may see patterns across Ontario, how they may vary across the province and in different MNO communities. I think understanding that context might be one of the important next things.”

MNO President Gary Lipinski during his remarks to the Health Summit outlined some of the ways the MNO will continue to make good use of the research to improve the lives of MNO citizens. “We are seeing high rates of modifiable risk factors in the Métis community like non-traditional tobacco use, diet, obesity, inactivity, sedentary living and alcohol consumption to name a few,” he pointed out,  “we know from our citizens and from MNO client and community services that access to mental health [initiatives] continues to be a major concern. That is why the work that the MNO, in linking our systems to health supports through MNO’s telehealth and other services, is essential.”

“We know that access to timely care and treatment is a particular challenge facing Métis, and that is why it’s important for the MNO to be at the right policy tables. Systems change, and seamless health care is essential in increasing earlier diagnosis and treatment.”

“The MNO has a central role in improving the health outcomes for Métis people in Ontario. [But even] with limited resources the MNO has built an impressive service delivery network throughout the province,” he concluded.

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