Aboriginal Health Research in Manitoba

Aboriginal health research takes place on many levels and involves investigators from many fields of academia. But much of the research being done is conducted by a core of researchers affiliated with the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Medicine, either through the Section of First Nations, Métis and Inuit Health at the Manitoba First Nations Centre for Aboriginal Health Research (MFN CAHR) or at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy. The Section of First Nations, Métis and Inuit Health is within the Department of Community Health Sciences and comprises the MFN CAHR, the Northern Medical Unit and the Centre for Aboriginal Health Education. All research projects are done in collaboration with Aboriginal communities throughout Manitoba.

What is MFN CAHR?

Located at the University of Manitoba's Bannatyne campus, MFN CAHR is the operating base for a number of researchers. Among other things, the centre initiates, conducts and supports research in the following areas:

  • Population and public health
  • Health services
  • Clinical
  • Biomedical-genetics
  • Health information systems

Cross-cutting themes include gender, life-course, research/biomedical ethics, community-based, knowledge translation, and training/capacitybuilding.

What is the Networks Environment for Aboriginal Health Research (NEAHR)?

NEAHR was established by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to fund Aboriginal health research in select centres across Canada. The NEAHR grant in Winnipeg is headed by Dr. Catherine Cook, who is the principal investigator. The NEAHR team consists of 16 members, all of whom are involved in Aboriginal health research within Manitoba. The main focus of NEAHR in Manitoba is to support the building of research capacity within the province in three ways:

  1. Funding basic research into Aboriginal health issues.
  2. Supporting efforts to enhance communication and co-operation between researchers and Aboriginal communities.
  3. Supporting Aboriginal students in their master's or Ph.D studies so they can get the education and experience they need to become experts in their field of research.

The NEAHR grant builds on previous "capacity building" efforts funded by CIHR for more than a decade. Last year, NEAHR approved research grants in Manitoba totalling $450,000.

Aboriginal health research projects

The following is a list of some of the Aboriginal health research projects underway in Manitoba with the support of NEAHR or by members of the NEAHR team.

The Development of an International Indigenous Academic Health Network, Catherine Cook, Marcia Anderson DeCoteau, Barry Lavallee, Karen Harlos

The concept of academic networks as a means for promoting knowledge creation and exchange in the field of indigenous health has emerged over the last decade, although the efficacy of such networks has not been explicitly described in the literature.

Building on the work of others who have attempted to establish international collaborations in research, curriculum development and graduate degree programs, a subgroup of the NEAHR team at the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Medicine is leading a project that seeks to develop an international academic network in indigenous health that will stimulate knowledge creation and mobilization across three domains: medical education, health research and health service delivery. In partnership with representatives of faculties of medicine in four other international locations (New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii and New Mexico), the network will facilitate academic exchanges that are intended to influence change within these domains. Using an intervention research approach, the impact of participation in this network on advancing indigenous health priorities in medical education, research and service delivery at the multiple sites will be evaluated.

Infant and Maternal Health and Related Health Care, Education, and Social Service Utilization in the Manitoba Métis population (Phase 1). The International Indigenous Infant Mortality Collaboration - Sharing and Comparing Indigenous Population Health Data (Phase 2), Sheila Carter & Judith Bartlett (Co-Principal Investigators)

It has been demonstrated that the health of Manitoba Métis lags behind that of the rest of the province, with rates of most chronic diseases higher for Métis than for all other Manitobans. While infant mortality rates appear statistically similar for the two groups, the Manitoba rate is significantly higher than that for Canada as a whole, suggesting an elevated rate for Manitoba Métis relative to other Canadians.

This study will provide the first indepth exploration of infant mortality and related actors in the Manitoba Métis population. Also, for the first time, the International Indigenous Infant Mortality Collaboration (IIIMC) will provide an opportunity for transparent "community to community" data comparisons internationally, utilizing complete and accurate data describing cause-specific infant mortality from indigenous communities in Australia, Manitoba, New Zealand and the United States. Analyses conducted by each community will be brought together in a single report in order to explain why genetically diverse and geographically dispersed indigenous groups suffer from the same similar health outcomes related to infant and maternal health.

Sniffing Around the Issue: A Preliminary Investigation into the Relationship Between Solvent Use and HIV Risk, Margaret Ormand and Keith Fowke (Co-Principal Investigators)

There is a lack of information on the biological and social effects of solvent use on the risk of HIV infection and HIV disease progression. Solvent users are among the most vulnerable populations and yet there is a lack of information about practices and risk factors that would help inform targeted prevention programs. Anecdotal evidence suggests that once becoming HIV infected, the rate of HIV disease progression among solvent abusers is very rapid.

Very little is known about the effect of these powerful solvents on the mucosal membrane and the effects on the immune system. This proposal brings together a multidisciplinary team of researchers and community organizations and seeks to:

  • Consult with solvent users to determine their priorities.
  • Strengthen partnerships with community organizations.
  • Translate knowledge about solvent abuse to the lay and scientific communities.
  • Prepare a multidisciplinary grant that explores the biology of solvent abuse.

Leaving for the City: An exploration of Cultural Social, Health and Economic Dimensions of Manitoba First Nations Relocating to Urban Centres to Access Medical Care, Josée G. Lavoie

Access to health services on Manitoba First Nations communities is limited to select services. These gaps in services often result in residents relocating to larger centres to seek medical care. Only a few studies have explored the impacts of policies and a health-care delivery system that relies on or promotes medical relocation. The purpose of this study is to document the cultural social, health and economic impacts that Manitoba First Nations individuals and families experience when faced with the need to relocate for medical services for an extended period of time. Among other things, this study explores the kinds of supports and services used and needed to best meet the needs of people during medical relocation and determine how best to minimize the need for medical relocation in Manitoba.

Wave: March / April 2012

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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