Indigenous health


Listen to Christine, the community health representative.

  • Christine: The doctors don’t seem to understand the reality. They think that by handing out pamphlets and making suggestions things are going to change. They need to take the time to explain to us what diabetes is and how it affects our bodies.

    People need to exercise but that’s easier said than done. The roads are poorly maintained. There’s a gym but the exercise equipment is so old and broken, there’s no money to fix it. And some people don’t want everyone knowing that they’re sick. They don’t want people knowing their business. So, if suddenly they’re out exercising that could raise some questions.

    They tell us we’re making unhealthy choices but there aren’t that many healthy choices to make at the store. What’s available is expensive and not that fresh. I’ve always wanted to start a community garden but again, we need the financing to dig up the land properly, get rid of the rocks, and give it the life it deserves.

    The doctors don’t take the time to understand us or our community’s challenges. If they did they’d stop saying things that just don’t make any sense. And it’s sad because if they would understand, they could really help us.

Listen to the reserve nurse.

  • Nurse: Communication is an issue. Sometimes we can’t get documentation, so we need to repeat tests that have already been done somewhere else. Every day we have a different doctor, so they don’t have the time to get to know the staff or the community. There should be a way that we could meet more regularly so that we can share information. There’s so much duplication. Sometimes their requests are unrealistic. It could be difficult to get people to the city for treatment our transportation budget has been cut so we need to triage who we send to the city and who we don’t.

    But if you get to know people you realize that this is a great place. This community has a lot of strengths. Sometimes you only hear about the weaknesses.

    The best thing that’s happening is the peer counseling program. There’s more compliance and more understanding of diabetes. People are talking to each other and it’s starting to feel like the community is taking control. The counselors 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 money 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.

  • Clyde: Yeah… I got 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 stay healthy I won’t have to go back, so I take my pills a bit more now so, that’s good. Mom has been taking classes with Christine to help with her cooking and so far, the kids like it a lot better. So, we all eat the same now. Now, I can have bannock made with less lard, but I can’t have bannock and bacon together anymore. No, I still don’t like tomatoes.

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

    When I first heard I had diabetes, I was scared. I didn’t do a good job of managing it. My head was so fuzzy from all the high sugars that I thought I was going crazy. But I was talking with Christine about it and when I found out that stress could affect my sugars I was pretty surprised. Now once my sugars leveled off I felt a lot better.

    Christine, she asked me to become a peer counselor for other people on the reserve who have diabetes. At first, I really didn’t want to do it but I thought about it and I realized if we all want to get better, then we all have to start talking about it.

    Now that I understand what’s going on inside my body, I can help others understand that too and that’s a good thing. When someone realizes they can take control over their situation. Summer has been good. I’ve been fishing a lot. Recently, I shot a moose, so I have a lot of really good meat for a while and who knows, maybe I’ll even help Christine dig that garden she’s always 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