Encompassing FNHA’s shared values and directives, the theme for the 2019 Nursing Education Forum (NEF) was Care, Culture and Connection, which was carefully woven into all presentations and workshops for the event.
NEF took place during two successive weeks, from November 19 – 21 and 26 – 28, to enable nurses to travel in from communities while ensuring coverage and care would still be available while they were away.
Dr. Jeff Reading, PhD, and the FNHA Chair in Heart Health and Wellness at St. Paul’s Hospital, shared his presentation "Heart Health and Two-eyed Seeing". He began his talk by recognizing all the nurses and their work, saying, “You are in the trenches . . . improving the lives of First Nations people in BC.”
Dr. Reading spoke about various aspects of heart health and wellness, addressing three specific risk factors – sugar, commercial tobacco use, and vaping – and their effects on overall health in First Nations populations in Canada.
Beginning with sugar, Dr. Reading talked about how it has been aggressively marketed to youth and that “We are in the throes of a diabetes epidemic.” He noted that Canadians are among the highest consumers of sugar in the world, with the prevalence of diabetes significantly higher in First Nations. Talking about the need to establish healthy behaviours in adolescence to help make healthy adults, Dr. Reading also spoke about the importance of a balanced diet and reclaiming traditional foods.
With regard to commercial tobacco, the conversation centred around tobacco that was originally and historically used in ceremony by Indigenous people, which became commodified by European settlers. From there, cultural misappropriation became mainstream as tobacco companies exploited Indigenous imagery and the use of commercial tobacco became widespread, which has led to the development of cardiovascular disease across all populations. Severe pulmonary disease is also now associated with vaping, which is very much targeted toward youth with various flavours and “menus” developed to entice their interest. This emphasizes the continued need to educate youth and to have ongoing conversations about the risks of vaping and commercial tobacco use.
Maternal health, and the ability to influence life from the very beginning, was a thoughtful and positive way to conclude the presentation. Dr. Reading reflected on the need to optimize the developmental trajectory over the entire life course, from gestation to later adulthood. Healthy choices around nutrition, exercise and tobacco use can result in better outcomes, and lower the risk for cardiovascular disease in later life.