With higher suicide rates and a lower than average life expectancy, First Nations people have a different relationship with the health care system than the rest of Canada, said the executive director of the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada.
Kandice Leonard said indigenous patients frequently reported feeling invisible when they walk into a doctor’s office.
“It’s not providing a safe context in order for them to be provided care and to receive treatment,” said Leonard.
At an event in Ottawa yesterday, IPAC, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and Health Canada launched a pilot project that would train new physicians, residents, and specialists about culturally safe and relevant practices within the indigenous community.
The underlying principal is to make it “okay to be an indigenous person and want to be able to receive care and treatment from a physician who will understand that,” said Leonard.
The program is expected to make the biggest impact in the areas of gynecology, obstetrics and psychiatry, since indigenous people have the highest rates of birth and suicide in the country.
Eventually, every new doctor trained in Canada would receive training related to specific problems encountered by indigenous people, said RCPSC president Dr. William Fitzgerald.