COVID-19 was first identified on December 31 2019 in Wuhan, China. It has quickly become a global emergency with the World Health Organization, declaring COVID-19 as a global pandemic, and recognizing that it represents a substantial threat to global markets, geopolitics and human health alike.
Studies on other pandemics including SARS, MERS, and H1N1 show that disadvantaged groups generally suffer the greatest incidence and mortality rates. With respect to H1N1, Indigenous communities in Canada had three times the incidence rates and 15 times the hospitalization rates than that of the general public, in part reflecting long-standing health inequities across the country.
Countermeasures were generally inadequate and at worst created more harm than good. Communities had poor access to medical experts and supplies and misinformation generated uncertainty and fear that persists today. Yet, many communities and Indigenous organizations also responded, effectively mitigating the effects of H1N1.
The outbreak of COVID-19 thus represents a critical moment. On one hand the same mistakes could be repeated, while on the other, there is an opportunity to anticipate these in ways that Indigenous priorities play the core role in shaping countermeasures here and into the future.
The Goal of this project is to provide support and resources to Indigenous communities in innovative and culturally appropriate ways during COVID-19 to better serve Indigenous communities and organizations now and into the future.
i) to identify past experiences with other pandemics and to explore any differences in countermeasures and how these have evolved over time;
ii) to critically evaluate the current state of community emergency planning and related risk communication;
iii) to assess any gaps in health and social services in Indigenous communities;
iv) to address any such gaps through community engagement and workshops;
v) to use the “Our Data Indigenous” app to address issues of data sovereignty and to increase access to and control over relevant data in Indigenous communities; and
vi) to develop culturally relevant and useful information resources for community use regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Project Activities will evaluate the implications of past and existing countermeasures to pandemics with respect to Indigenous communities across Canada and address any gaps in understanding and support related to COVID-19 and other pandemics in the future.
- Communication and information sharing with Indigenous communities will be a primary focus during the peak of the pandemic, when travel restrictions and social distancing measures are in place. This will include video and social media that can be used to amplify community voices.
- Existing community countermeasures and emergency plans will be documented through interviews with local health providers and Knowledge Keepers in Manitoba.
- Experiences with pandemics and community health will be assessed in interviews with Health Center Directors and Knowledge Keepers from communities across Canada. Interviews will also be conducted with health specialists from Tribal Councils and from provincial and federal health agencies.
- Workshops will be held that explore the use of traditional medicines and ceremony during pandemics.
- Household surveys will be conducted to assess local concerns and to document changes in health and wellbeing over the course of the pandemic.
- Workshops on scenario-building and visioning will be held in communities for future planning.
This project will play a critical role in supporting Indigenous communities across the country as they respond to the pandemic and to facilitate outreach and change regarding health-related policy at the provincial and federal levels of government