"Building a Fairer, Healthier World” includes Fighting for a Fair and Safe Healthcare System for First Nations Communities in BC
A message from Dr. Evan Adams, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Public Health, FNHA Office of the Chief Medical Officer
Fighting for equity means identifying barriers to equal access, opportunities, and resources, and actively seeking justice and reparation.
“Building a fairer, healthier world,” is the theme for this year’s World Health Day, which is a day to raise awareness of the importance of addressing health inequities (unfair and avoidable inequalities that are not inevitable or natural, but the product of human behaviour).
At the FNHA, our work is all about “building a fairer, healthier world” in our part of the globe, for the people we serve – that is, First Nations people living in British Columbia (BC). Since our inception, we have been working to transform the health care system in this province so that all First Nations people—no matter where they live in BC—can have the basic human right to good health and access to culturally safe, high-quality health care services.
Before colonization, for many thousands of years, First Nations people in BC enjoyed good health and wellness on our lands and territories, upheld by traditional cultural practices that maintained and supported wholistic healing and well-being. European contact led to harmful practices of colonialism and racism that systematically disrupted our pre-contact state of good health and wellness.
Racism has been woven into the foundation and practices of the health system, including the exclusion and disregard of First Nations perspectives and practices related to health and wellness.
Health inequities persist between First Nations and other populations residing in BC. We are more likely to be living with chronic diseases, less likely to be attached to a primary care provider/access primary care services, and more likely to be hospitalized for conditions that could have been addressed at earlier stages in primary care. Research and reviews—in reports such as the First Nations Population Health and Wellness Agenda (2021)—continue to affirm what our people know and experience – that race is a determinant of health, and that racism is a public health issue.
Addressing and eliminating Indigenous-specific racism in health care and achieving health equity is one of the FNHA’s main goals, as this is critical to achieving our Vision of healthy, self-determining, and vibrant BC First Nations children, families and communities. We remain committed to championing cultural safety and humility (CSH) across the health system and to working with our partners to embed CSH into health and wellness service delivery to improve health outcomes for First Nations people living in BC.
As the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) states, “Indigenous peoples have the right to use their traditional medicines and to maintain their health practices, including the conservation of their vital medicinal plants, animals, and minerals. Indigenous individuals also have the right to access – without any discrimination – all social and health services.”
Led by our Vision, we continue to strive toward making this right to health a reality for our people. We do this by working to enhance First Nations health governance; championing the BC First Nations Perspective on Health and Wellness; advancing excellence in programs and services; and operating as an efficient, effective and excellent First Nations organization.
For more information about our work, check out our Annual Reports. For more information about the Office of the Chief Medical Officer, visit fnha.ca/what-we-do/chief-medical-office.