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Canadian Indigenous Communities’ Access to Health Care

Communities’ Access to Health Care

Canada is a developed country with a stable health care system. Canadian citizens can be proud of the health care quality in their state. However, in order for a health care system to be really effective for the country, all people should have equal access to it. Canada is one of the countries where this issue occupies a significant place because of a mixed population, consisting of Aboriginal communities, native Canadians, and immigrants. The research performed for this paper has revealed some inequities that indigenous communities have in accessing health care in Canada, conditioned by geographical, cultural, and economic factors.

Having free access to health care for a person means possessing the opportunity to promptly apply to any medical professional for help. “In Canada, access to health care is ‘universal’ to its citizens under the Health Care Act” (Access to health services, 2011, p. 2). This access is provided with the help of a strong value of national equality. However, practice shows that the First Nation communities of Canada as well as Inuit and Métis communities have difficulties accessing different medical institutions. Although some data shows small improvements in health indicators of these groups, it is widely known that Canadian indigenous communities suffer from the lack of medical aid. Healthcare issues are their greatest concern as they include a wide range of deviations and diseases, namely “…obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular, and chronic renal disease (lifestyle diseases); and diseases caused by environmental contamination…” (National Collaborating Center, 2013, p. 4). This data is conditioned by a number of factors. Socio-economic, cultural and geographical barriers create additional difficulties for the Aboriginals in terms of healthcare. The majority of First Nation populations live in rural and distant areas, in the north of Canada. “The implications of a lack of access to health services in the North have meant that patients must leave their communities to access more specialized care” (Access to health services, 2011, p. 2).

The Aboriginal communities who speak only their own language, follow their cultural traditions, and may even prefer non-traditional medicine usually hardly ever agree for such long trips to the nearest hospital. Moreover, a high poverty level of these communities and high general costs for medical help that also include travel expenses may seem unbearable for these groups. Living at big distances from each other with low population density logically means greater sums per capita spent on health care. The second group of obstacles is Canadian jurisdictional regulations. Not all indigenous populations have equal access to health care according to the Canadian legislation. For instance, Inuit communities living in their traditional areas are subject to limited primary care, the same as registered Indians. There exists a special organization, the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, which is engaged in delivering primary health care to remote Canadian Aboriginal communities. However, it is complicated to cover all the areas and observe all corresponding laws at the same time (Access to health services, 2011). Therefore, there are some serious, both objective and subjective factors, which prevent Canadian indigenous communities from having equal access to health care.

The mentioned generalized healthcare barriers do not exclude the presence of other singular factors that also interfere with the Canadian Aboriginals’ normal health care. First Nation areas are the poorest regions of the country that are “frequently economically marginalized, and commonly lack adequate infrastructure for food processing, food production, and safe drinking water” (Fieldhouse & Thompson, 2022, p. 218). It is possible to conclude that the indigenous populations do not have access to normal nutrition. As a result, the representatives of the considered remote areas have more health problems than the Canadians living in the regions with normal food infrastructure.

It is important to consider what Canadian Aboriginals do themselves in order to fight the situation with unequal access to healthcare. There exist the Aboriginal Nurses Association of Canada and the Aboriginal Physicians Association of Canada. The representatives of both organizations try to assist indigenous communities in all their healthcare problems. In cooperation with other medical institutions of Canada, they created a list of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Health Core Competencies that “must be able to provide culturally safe care with indigenous patients, their families, and communities” (Freire-Gormaly, n. d., p. 2). The main objective of this set of regulations is that all doctors and nurses should have special training to perform their activities in the sphere of ingenious health care. “Aboriginal doctors are often best equipped to provide culturally competent and safe care to other Aboriginal people” (Petch, Tepper & Konkin, 2013, para. 6). The Associations created a working group consisting of educators and representatives of different medical schools to implement their plans (Freire-Gormaly, n. d.). So, it is obvious that numerous representatives of Canadian indigenous groups managed to overcome cultural and educational barriers in order to reduce inequities in health care access for their communities.

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The Canadian government is ready for any possible actions to reduce the level of inequality in access to health care for their Métis, Inuit and other Aboriginal populations. In order to provide food security, Fieldhouse & Thompson offer a number of food interventions that can help the discussed communities have normal nutrient food. These interventions include the development of agricultural activities and education on fish harvesting and food production (Firldhouse and Thompson, 2012). In order to resolve more complex issues, National Collaborating Center for Aboriginal Health also offers a number of valuable solutions. The organization is sure that the most effective strategies are not just to provide access to health care but fight social and economic barriers. The center has defined four basic strategies: to provide culturally-oriented health services, shift towards preventive medicine for Aboriginal tribes, build hospital settings in rural areas, and put emphasis on local governmental control. These strategies seem to be effective and cover all aspects of the discussed health care issues. Mehdipanah offers an interesting perspective on solving the problem of access to health care among Aboriginal communities. He states that besides elaborating on optimal approaches to providing medical services for these groups, it is important to comprehend their social, community and cultural needs. “In recent years, interest has been generated in the area of community and neighborhood factors influencing the health of the inhabitants (Mehdipanah, 2011, p. 11). Therefore, the author is sure that it will be complicated to answer all indigenous groups’ health care expectations without understanding their cultural and social demands. They need a chance to develop in this sense and take part in usual everyday activities, like going to school and university, visiting cultural events, etc. (Mehdipanah, 2011). In this case, Canada will manage to overcome a cultural barrier of the considered groups and will not have to answer any opposing actions from their side conditioned by the lack of education and natural assimilation with native Canadians. All the enumerated measures can easily serve as a fundamental complex approach to solving the question of health care inequity in Canada.

The research for the current paper demonstrated that Canada really has a problem of unequal access to healthcare for its indigenous populations. The factors causing this issue cover all areas of Canadian Aboriginal lifestyle. However, there are a great number of elaborated intervention strategies capable of improving health care outcomes of the considered groups. In order to get positive results, Canadian government in cooperation with medical institutions should perform social, cultural and economic changes in order to make their hospitals and indigenous tribes ready to follow the principle of free and prompt access to health care.