Heart and Stroke Foundation commits $500,000 to support First Nations Health Authority Chair in Heart Health and Wellness at St. Paul’s

Mar 16, 2017 | News

Heart & Stroke has committed $500,000 to support the First Nations Health Authority Chair in Heart Health and Wellness at St. Paul’s to support closing the gap in Indigenous health.

“We are committed to working with Indigenous communities to identify the gaps in health and social well-being ‒ and finding solutions together,” says Adrienne Bakker, CEO of Heart & Stroke, BC & Yukon. “Indigenous people in Canada are up to two times more likely to develop heart disease than the general population. But access to the best treatment and recovery for heart health and brain health is a major issue in many First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities. Social and economic determinants such as poverty, education and food insecurity impact health and create real barriers to health and wellness.”

Health systems are failing Indigenous people in Canada who suffer from chronic diseases, poor health and death at alarming rates. Eighty per cent of premature heart disease and stroke is preventable, but the most fundamental elements of prevention, like access to healthy food, are often out of reach for many Indigenous communities.

Co-developed by St. Paul’s, the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) and Simon Fraser University (SFU), the First Nations Health Authority Chair in Heart Health and Wellness at St. Paul’s is a global first that places a holistic focus on First Nations cardiac health to drive research that can improve First Nations health outcomes.

Embracing innovation, the Chair’s responsibilities include leading research to develop protective strategies of health promotion that include First Nations history, culture and spirit; understanding risk factors related to the social determinants of health; and producing health knowledge for policies and programs.

“Thanks to Heart & Stroke’s generous gift, we’re able to support the Chair’s work in improving the lives of BC’s First Nations through world-class education and research,” says Dick Vollet, President and CEO of St. Paul’s Foundation. “St. Paul’s is well positioned to support the Chair’s work as our hospital is home to the provincial Heart Centre, which sees the most complex cardiac cases from across BC and western Canada.”

Dr. Jeff Reading, a leading international expert in Indigenous health, is the inaugural First Nations Health Authority Chair in Heart Health and Wellness at St. Paul’s. Reading, who is a Mohawk from the Tyendinaga First Nation in Ontario, brings more than two decades of experience in enhancing knowledge in Indigenous health issues—both in Canada and globally.

“Heart & Stroke’s support will help improve the health of our communities,” says Dr. Jeff Reading, FNHA Chair in Heart Health and Wellness. “We are developing an I-HEART (Indigenous Health Education Access Research Training) Centre, to challenge the status quo and support improved cardiovascular health by concentrating on the role of social and economic influences that shape health risks and disease progression and by promoting achieving optimal health through early intervention and through all developmental stages of life’s progression, including the well-being of Elders.”

Improving access to health care will mean cultivating culturally safe cardiovascular services and programs while tackling the geographic challenge of providing rural and remote access to some of the most vulnerable communities.

The I-HEART Centre will focus on education by promoting Indigenous health information dissemination and application to inform new policy and programs aimed at alleviating chronic cardiovascular health conditions including the sharing of promising community innovation and practices for rehabilitation and aftercare.

Advanced knowledge creation and research to improve health outcomes will involve new and ancient indigenous ways of knowing related to prevention and wellness, promotion of healthy diets including traditional foods, promotion of the health benefits of regular exercise, secure access to healthy food, respecting tobacco, and managing other health conditions though better-quality treatment and care for chronic illness such as diabetes and obesity, blood pressure control, tobacco misuse, mental health and substance misuse, lung and kidney disease and improved management of cholesterol.

The I-HEART Centre will support future generations of health professionals through training and mentoring, creating student and community informed research networks and collaborations across health professions and health sciences disciplines within British Columbia, the Yukon Territory across Canada and internationally.

Heart & Stroke’s national Indigenous health strategy is focused on building partnerships with Indigenous organizations and communities that will enable collaboration to improve heart and brain health and bring an end to the severe health inequities experienced by Indigenous people.

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