Northern Health’s (NH) Indigenous Health department would like to extend a huge congratulations to the Aboriginal/Indigenous Improvement Committees (A/IHICs), this year’s winner of the BC Patient Safety and Quality Council’s (BCPSQC) Award for Excellence in Quality: Getting Better! The Getting Better award celebrates projects that have improved care for acute illness or injury.
Started in 2005, the A/IHICs are action-oriented groups that support health and wellness for Indigenous Peoples, families, and communities in Northern BC. They facilitate learning about each other’s realities and opportunities while connecting grassroots organizations and individuals with health leaders and practitioners. Their objectives are to:
- Build connections by providing opportunities for new and stronger relationships.
- Increase cultural understanding between communities and sectors.
- Incorporate Indigenous peoples’ perspectives and experiences.
The A/IHICs brought NH and Indigenous health leaders together to identify health care priorities and work together towards solutions. The result is an environment of teamwork where collaborating, understanding, and trust have grown in communities throughout Northern BC.
The committees have improved health care experiences for Indigenous Peoples through process/patient journey mapping, implementing priority issues, and developing local cultural resources. They’ve developed over 65 resources and initiatives that support increased understanding of local Indigenous communities, cultures, and barriers to health care, while completing more than 25 patient journey/process maps. These maps contribute to enhanced awareness and teamwork for addressing gaps and identifying opportunities in health care.
Going beyond culturally safe health care, some resources created by the A/IHICs focus on strengthening communities in rebuilding their culture and practices. The Métis A/IHIC funding, for example, supported initiatives such as housing, post-secondary education, Indigenous skills and employment, public health disease surveillance, health and data sharing agreements, and cancer resources.
The committees have addressed many challenges and remind each other to be “tough on the issues, but gentle with each other,” a phrase borrowed from the First Nations Health Authority. The cultural resources have shaped service delivery changes, facility design, and policy changes among health care providers from various sectors, and the stories patients have told through patient journey mapping have been instrumental in making health care more welcoming to Indigenous Peoples and influencing change in policy and practice.
The A/IHICs will be recognized for their achievements at the February Quality Forum in Vancouver with an honorary plaque in addition to receiving a $2,500 prize.