In a new video released for International Women’s Day, Dr. Unjali Malhotra explains how the journeys and experiences of Indigenous women are guiding her team’s groundbreaking work.
A Community’s ability to thrive is rooted in the health of the women within it. Dr. Unjali is the Medical Officer, Women’s Health, at the First Nations Health Authority Office of the Chief Medical Officer (OCMO). She is leading the FNHA’s work to remove bias and promote change to support cultural, physical and emotional safety for Indigenous women and families.
Generations of Indigenous women and families live with trauma brought about by institutionalized racism and segregation, including the residential school system. Says Dr. Unjali. “Our commitment to women’s health includes educating and informing health partners and providers on trauma-informed care and consent. Trauma-informed care focuses on the whole person. It ensures cultural, physical and emotional safety for families.”
Dr. Unjali describes a trauma-aware provider as one who provides a safe space, listens and wants to build a long term relationship. “A trauma-aware provider will ask for permission to enter a personal journey and be prepared for the stories that may be shared. This provider will welcome culturally safe supports to attend appointments, such as spiritual healers, family members or friends.”
Dr. Unjali describes cultural humility among providers as a first step toward cultural safety. “We must reflect upon our personal biases and those of the health system to create change to enable cultural safety to exist.”
The FNHA is dedicated to helping women make choices that are their own, free of bias and coercion. In the video, Dr. Unjali explains what consent means in a culturally safe health care setting. “Consent is a two-way conversation and an opportunity for a woman to ask questions about her care and experience. Consent is about choice. It’s important for health care providers to deliver information without bias or coercion, to inform that choice.”
Dr. Unjali encourages women to ask for support to access trauma-informed care in the Community or Away from Home. This could include visiting a community health centre, friendship centre or community health nurse, or contacting the FNHA.
The FNHA also provides health resources and articles on a wide range of topics at www.fnha.ca, including:
Maternal, child and family health
Sexual Health and trauma
Heart health and the role of culture and ceremony