‘We’ve Got a Crisis in Canada’: U of T Researcher Helps Develop First-of-its-kind Online Training Program

Sep 27, 2019
Gabrielle Giroday

Dr. Lisa RichardsonLisa Richardson A new online tool seeks to educate health care professionals about the biases Indigenous women face when it comes to navigating their own reproductive health.

The training program – which will be launched at an event October 1 in Toronto – is designed to assist health care professionals across Canada learn more about the social determinants of Indigenous women’s reproductive health.

It was created as part of a research study involving the University of Toronto, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Lakehead University, and the Thunder Bay Regional Health Research Institute.

“We’ve got a crisis in Canada when it comes to overcoming barriers that Indigenous women, and all Indigenous people, face in accessing equitable health care,” says Dr. Lisa Richardson, the strategic advisor in Indigenous Health at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine and an associate professor in the Department of Medicine, who assisted with the development of the training program.

“There is a long, long way to go.”

The training program was created to teach health care providers about the experiences of Indigenous women, and communicate with learners in Indigenous women’s own voices.

The initiative was led by Dr. Naana Jumah, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre and assistant professor at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and Dr. Richardson.

Both doctors led a research team of seven people to develop the curriculum, the majority of whom were Indigenous women.

It will be launched on October 1 at a public event at the Donnelly Centre for Cellular Biomolecular Research at University of Toronto.

“This is designed for health care providers, like doctors, nurses, social workers, and first responders. But anyone else who might provide care to Indigenous women is encouraged to use it,” says Jumah.

“We’re also hoping that other staff members working at health care organizations will take part, like receptionists and administrative workers. These people are typically the first person a patient interacts with, and they have a critical role in how a patient forms their first impressions of the organization.”

The training program is called “Hearing Our Voices,” and incorporated feedback from 11 organizations from across Canada, many of them Indigenous women’s organizations, including Ka Ni Kanichihk, Kenhtè:ke Midwives, Native Women’s Association of Canada, Newfoundland Aboriginal Women’s Network, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, Rona Sterling Consulting and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Health care providers and other Canadians are being invited to try out the online training, and share their feedback.

Dr. Naana JumahNaana Jumah The development of the curriculum reflects overall educational shifts that were highlighted as needed in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, and the Final Report of the national Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Women and Girls, says Richardson.

Earlier this year, Richardson told the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health about the “ongoing evidence of the mistreatment of our peoples within health care,” including forced sterilizations that occurred.

“It’s appalling,” she says. “This training program is an important resource that all health care providers should be aware of.”

Jumah agrees.

“Our hope is that if people take part in education, it will result in fewer discriminatory practices, and better skills among health care providers,” she says. “We also hope it will lead to better relationships with Indigenous patients and a greater ability to address Indigenous patients’ needs.”