New UBC public health program will train Indigenous health leaders

Photo credit: Faculty of Medicine/Martin Dee

A new public health program offered at the University of British Columbia aims to address health inequities by training Indigenous health leaders working in communities across the country.

The Certificate, and Graduate Certificate, in Indigenous Public Health Program – representing the first of its kind in Canada – will be available through the Faculty of Medicine’s Centre for Excellence in Indigenous Health (CEIH) in summer and winter sessions, starting in August. It will offer specialized training in core disciplines of public health, including biostatistics, health policy, and environmental health, aiming to equip participants with the skills needed to address public health issues in Indigenous communities.

Marshal German

Program manager Marshal German

“Focusing on these public health pillars through an Indigenous lens will help future students gain research skills and understand perspectives that can be marginalized in mainstream curricula,” said CEIH co-director Nadine Caron. “It is not a coincidence that the first step we are taking is a course focusing on research ethics through an Indigenous lens in addition to an introductory course in public health.”

Delivered in a culturally relevant way, the program’s approach will recognize the historic and ongoing health disparities faced by Indigenous populations, build knowledge affirming Indigenous rights to self-determination in relation to health services, and address many of the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation commission.

The program will target Indigenous community members, leaders and health professionals already working full-time in their communities, as well as students studying across health science disciplines. The Centre team says they created this program as, ultimately, increasing the number of Indigenous health professionals and researchers and providing outlets for those already working in Indigenous health to advance their skills is necessary to address persistent health inequities.

“This program is unique in Canada and hopes to expand the reach of UBC as a post-secondary institution out to Indigenous communities, leaders, and health workers so that the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission can be accomplished,” Dr. Caron said.

The program will be offered in a non-credit as well as credit form, meaning students could complete it over time, or choose specific courses. This would make the program more accessible to working professionals, program manager Marshal German said.

“The best way to improve the health and well-being of a community is for community members to receive the education and training needed to take control of their own health systems and solutions,” German said.

Having control in health is key to addressing health inequities, German said, because this means having a voice in decision-making, and having health services and governance reflect that voice and experience. “Classrooms can be a venue for the exchange of expertise – community knowledge and academic expertise, which can increase the pathways for dialogue.”

The program plans to feature Indigenous leaders as lecturers, including members of White Mountain Apache Tribe in the United States of America. The development of UBC’s certificate program was informed by a close partnership with leaders from White Mountain and the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for American Indian Health, with which CEIH signed a Memorandum of Understanding on March 1st, and which offers a similar certificate program, Dr. Caron said. “In Johns Hopkins’ certificate program, we’ve witnessed the incredible impact of curriculum targeted towards those who it is going to serve the most, and we are excited for UBC to take on this responsibility north of the border.”

For more information, visit: health.aboriginal.ubc.ca/training/

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