Mr. Speaker, this Assembly is committed to a goal of healthy, educated people free from poverty. Improving the health status of the Aboriginal population in the Northwest Territories is one way the Department of Health and Social Services is accomplishing that goal.
Clearly, if we want to make meaningful change, we have to focus our efforts on the areas of greatest need. We must stop designing “one size fits all” solutions and start listening to communities about what will work.
Aboriginal people in the Northwest Territories are suffering from an increased burden of chronic diseases and the trends are worsening. Their cancer rates are higher, Type 2 Diabetes is a growing concern, and they are more likely to be hospitalized for mental health or addictions related issues.
It is a sad fact that 95 per cent of the children in foster care in the Northwest Territories are Aboriginal. These are troubling statistics and we must take action to improve the health of our Aboriginal residents. We know that better promotion of healthy lifestyles is one of the keys to improving this situation. It is obvious to me that we must change the way we do business in order to effectively reach out to our residents.
We need to develop prevention and promotion programs that will be effective and culturally respectful.
We need to work with our health centres to create a welcoming environment where Aboriginal people feel respected and supported.
Mr. Speaker, our new Aboriginal Health and Community Wellness Division is working towards that goal. We are changing the way we do business.
Regionally based community wellness planners will be working more closely with community groups and Aboriginal governments to help them identify their priorities and develop appropriate responses. This helps provide better programming and is consistent with the government’s Aboriginal Engagement Strategy.
Prevention and promotion experts will provide support to community wellness plans. We will put less emphasis on mass-producing posters in English, and more emphasis on helping communities to use the most effective tools to reach people.
I will enhance the mandate of Stanton’s Elders Council so that their valuable expertise may provide guidance in developing territory-wide solutions.
By exploring how to make our system more responsive to Aboriginal patients and clients, we also create the potential to incorporate traditional healing into primary care.
Mr. Speaker, the government cannot make people healthy by itself. People also have to take responsibility for their own health by making good decisions and adopting a healthy lifestyle. Eating well, getting exercise and not smoking and avoiding alcohol abuse are steps that every individual can take to improve their health. With the assistance of the many programs and services this government provides and our new approach to doing business, people have a lot of power to choose lives free from disease and illness.