Bree Beveridge, Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations, Port Hardy

Looking into wellness with the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations and the Comprehensive Community Planning Process

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Bree Beveridge spent several months with the Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nations, working together on their Comprehensive Community Planning process, in order to follow her interest of working with communities to bridge the gap between planning and health.

In academia, or in institutional settings, Bree found that health and planning can be treated as different things, with health pigeonholed into specific definitions that don’t necessarily incorporate wellness aspects. For instance, for a diabetes program, an outcome does not need to be a prevention program – it could be a community garden, or working with traditional medicines.

Bree performed a review of programs that supported wellness in the community to highlight the different ways that wellness outcomes desired by a community could be achieved. She then created a ‘lookbook’, Looking Toward Wellness, which aimed to inspire people and the community to step outside a ‘tunnel-visioned’ approach of having specific health outcomes, and instead look at different approaches and applications to health and wellness.

It’s important for those starting in public health to have a broader understanding of wellness, and to understand different communities have different concepts of wellness, Bree says.

“We can develop all the health programs in the world, but if they don’t fit the community’s plan, they’re not going to be successful.”

Bree says she was very excited to take part in the practicum and that it left her satisfied, but motivated to do more work with the Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nations and other communities. Her advice to students about to start community-based practicums is to give themselves more time, perhaps carrying out the practicum over two semesters, in order to communicate the outcomes for all parties involved, to build the necessary relationships, and to deal with any difficulties or problems that might arise. It’s also important to ensure your deliverable is useful to the community you are working with – the relationship should be reciprocal.

To those looking to choose a practicum, she advises that you cater to your areas of interest, speak with people involved in these areas, and take small steps in this direction rather than diving straight into your practicum.

Another important practicum skill is to be flexible and go with the flow, such as when Bree arrived on her first day and was asked to cook for about 60 people. Despite it being the first time she had cooked for more than three people, her chicken pesto pasta went down well, she says. “Nobody died!”

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