Improving Indigenous Maternal and Infant Health in Northern Canada

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Gwich'in Settlement Area, Sahtu Settlement Area, North Slave Region

Tags: health, health care, women's health, prenatal health, infants, maternal

Principal Investigator: Sharma, Sangita (9)
Licence Number: 16596
Organization: Indigenous and Global Health Research Group
Licensed Year(s): 2019
Issued: Jul 23, 2019
Project Team: Andre Corriveau; Jozef Carnogursky; Terri-Lynn Fox; Carolyn Gotay; Fariba Kolahdooz; Melinda Laboucan; Evelyn Storr; Adrain Wagg

Objective(s): To improve the health of Indigenous mothers and babies.

Project Description: Indigenous women living in Canada’s North may face challenges during pregnancy, childbirth, and after delivery. Complications can arise from limited access to healthcare services. In this project, communities and the research team will work together to develop a program to improve the health of Indigenous mothers and babies through:

1) Learning about maternal and infant health practices and experiences through interviews with Indigenous women who are pregnant or have recently given birth, and with community members including Elders, knowledge holders, healthcare providers, policy makers, to identify barriers to and opportunities for improving access to services for the health of women and babies.
2) Sharing findings with communities through sharing circles and open forums in each community.
3) Working with communities to develop, establish, and evaluate an educational program to improve maternal and infant health.
4) Sharing evaluation results and final materials with communities, and with territorial, and national organizations involved in maternal and infant health policies, programs, and service delivery (e.g. regional Health & Social Services authorities (HSSA’s), Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC), Gwich’in Tribal Council (GTC), the Nihtat Gwich’in Council (NGC), Inuvik Regional Hospital, Aurora College (AC) and Aurora Research Institute (ARI), Assembly of First Nations, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), Department of Health & Social Services (HSS), Health Canada).

In 8 years of planning for this project, the research team has spent many years meeting with partnering communities, in the process, building relationships with community Elders, local and territorial leaderships, and healthcare providers who play a key role within Community Advisory Boards. The Community Advisory Boards (CAB) will provide guidance and feedback on all project activities.

In January 2019, team members travelled to Yellowknife and Inuvik and met with CAB members, community stakeholders, Government of NWT officials, IRC, GTC, the NGC, Inuvik Regional Hospital, AC Yellowknife Campus, ARI, and in February 2019 travelled to Fort Good Hope and Norman Wells to meet with community members and Sahtú Health and Social Services Authority. The team received feedback on the overall objectives of the project, what questions should be asked, how to ask the questions, and were given guidance on the methods and tools to use to collect information. The Community Advisory Boards will guide and advise the team throughout the project. The team will train and employ local community members to help with the project and data collection.

The team will talk with 280 women who are pregnant or who have given birth in the past 3 years. This includes 177 women in Yellowknife; 75 in Inuvik; and 28 in Fort Good Hope. Women will be asked if they want to share thoughts about access to services and experiences with pregnancy, childbirth, and after delivery. Additional information will also come from in-depth interviews with community members including Elders, knowledge holders, healthcare providers, and policy makers, to identify barriers to and opportunities for improving access to services and maternal and infant health (around 24 interviews in total).

Participants will be recruited through advertisements on social media, community radio, and on local TV. Posters will be placed in food stores, health centers, and distributed to community women, mom/baby groups, as suggested by Community Advisory Boards and with local support. Trained staff will hold interviews in the local project office, participant’s home, or anywhere that is convenient and confidential for the participant. Participants will be given the choice of completing the interview in either English or a local language. Interviews will last approximately 30 minutes. Written informed consent will be obtained from each participant. With the permission of participants, interviews will be audio-recorded. For participants who do not permit audio-recording, information will be collected by note taking.

After collecting and analyzing the information, the team will discuss the findings with communities and all partners. Sharing circles and community consultations will be held to identify priority areas in each community, involving men and women. Participants will identify priority areas for the potential intervention to improve maternal and infant health outcomes and guide the drafting of content and producing and distributing the educational materials. Once a final list of themes has been developed and approved by the Community Advisory Boards, the list will be presented to community members at least two different times and final priorities and program methods will be determined.