Indigenous health


Listen to Christine, the community health representative.

  • The doctors just don’t really understand. They think they can just make suggestions or hand-out pamphlets and things are going to change. They need to explain what is happening in the body, what diabetes is.

    People need to exercise, but there is no walking path. The roads are really dusty and there’s so many dogs. People are afraid of the dogs. There is a gym, but there is no exercise equipment. They get stolen or ruined, and then there is no money to replace it. And then some people just don’t want everyone knowing their business. They don’t need people to know that they’re sick. And so, if they are suddenly seen out exercising …

    They tell us that we’re making unhealthy choices, but there aren’t that many healthy choices to make. I’ve always wanted to start a community garden, and the best place to do that is the school, but the land there is no good … it’s all full of rocks. So then, we would need money to dig up the land properly.

    They just don’t take the time to get to know us, and, if they knew our ways, I think then they wouldn’t keep just saying things that don’t make any sense.

Listen to the reserve nurse.

  • Communication is an issue. Sometimes we can’t get documentation, so we have to repeat tests that have already been done somewhere else. Uh, every day we have a different doctor. So, they don’t have time to get to know the staff or the community. There should be a way that we could meet more regularly, so we can share information. There’s so much duplication. Sometimes their requests are unrealistic. It could be difficult to get people to town for treatment. Our transportation budget has been cut, so we have to triage who we send to town for treatment and who we don’t. Uh, but if you get to know people, you realize this is a great place. There is a lot of strength in this community. Sometimes you only hear about the weaknesses.

    The best thing that’s happening is the peer counselling program. Uh, there is more compliance and more understanding of the disease. People are talking to each other and it’s starting to feel like the community is taking control. Um, the counsellors make a little money, and they feel like they’re providing something valuable, and the cooking classes are really popular. I hope we have enough funding to sustain it. Right now, we only have enough money for a couple of years.

Clyde has spent the summer on the reserve and thinks about the changes he has made.

  • I got back home last spring, just before break-up. I didn’t like it at the hospital, but they say it was good for me. If I keep healthy, I won’t have to go back so I take the pills more now but, that’s okay. Mom’s taking classes with Christine to help her cooking, and the kids like it a lot better, so we all eat the same now. I can have bannock made with less fat, but I can’t eat bannock and bacon anymore together. I still don’t like tomatoes.

    I see the nurse, and my sugars are a lot better.

    When I first heard that I had diabetes I was scared and didn’t do a good managing it. My head was so fuzzy from high sugars that I thought I was going crazy. But Christine has been talking to me about it. When I learned that my stress could affect my sugars I was really surprised. After I got my sugars leveled, I felt a lot better.

    She asked me to become a peer counsellor for other people on the reserve with diabetes. At first I really didn’t want to, but … now I realize that if we want to get better, I guess we all have to start talking about it.

    Now that I understand what is happening in my body, I can help others to understand it too. I mean, it’s good, when people can realize that they can take control over their situation.

    The summer’s been good. We went fishing a lot. I shot a moose, so now we’ll have a lot of good meat for a while. Maybe I’ll even help Christine dig that garden she keeps talking about.

Amy is working with the people on the reserve to promote a healthier life. To her astonishment, when she asked Clyde about becoming a peer counsellor, he said yes! Now he is working with Christine and the nurse to help others with diabetes. He is also helping dig a vegetable garden, and the younger children are planting seeds. What does the future hold for all of them? We do not know.

What have Dr. Nyrit and Keith learned? Will Dr. Nyrit stay long enough to be part of Amy’s plan for a healthier life? Will Keith better understand his next Aboriginal patient?

We hope so.


Next: Indigenous health care in urban settings