‘Landmark’ health accord signed with First Nations in the Fraser Valley

Aboriginal health outcomes are expected to improve as a result of a partnership reached this week - the first of its kind in B.C.

Aboriginal health outcomes are expected to improve as a result of a partnership reached this week — the first of its kind in British Columbia.

“This agreement signals an important change, and the way ahead for how health services will be delivered to First Nations, not only in the Fraser Health Region but throughout BC,” Sto:lo Tribal Council Grand Chief Doug Kelly said in a news release.

The partnership was signed by FHA officials and the Fraser Salish Regional Caucus representing the Sto:lo Tribal Council, the Sto:lo Nation and independent Salish communities.

The caucus has representatives on the First Nation Health Council, a provincial body tasked with creating a First Nations Health Authority — the first of its kind in Canada — in collaboration with federal and provincial partners.

A key commitment of the accord is creation of an Aboriginal Health Steering Committee to set aboriginal health priorities, policies, budgets and services in the Fraser region.

The accord calls for improvements in service delivery through more collaboration between FHA officials and First Nations Health Centres to work with community health leaders on “more culturally appropriate health strategies.”

“Our approach to health and well-being is, more than anything, community-based,” Chief Willie Charlie, who represents the independent Fraser Salish communities, said in the news release.

“First Nations and aboriginal peoples have a good understanding of their health challenges and goals, and this partnership with Fraser Health will help us reach those goals sooner,” he said.

Chief Maureen Chapman, Sto:lo Nation Chiefs Council representative said “there is no doubt that we can see change in First Nations health outcomes in this region” as a result of the partnership that will “specify initiatives and milestones” of aboriginal communities.

There are 32 aboriginal communities in the region with varying needs and capability of engaging with the Fraser Health Authority.

The accord specifies that no community should be forced into region-wide health strategies, but that no community should left behind.