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Losing Patients Vice President Research and International, Office of the Nov 30, 2009

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9 FAll/WInTeR 2009 PReseRvINg INDIgeNous IDeNtIty LOsiNG PATieNTs Few people relish a visit to the hospital, where even a modest health concern can trigger anxiety about death and injury. For many urban Aboriginal people, negative experiences in hospitals have made them mistrust institutionalized health care, making them resistant to future hospital visits, even if their health suffers as a result. Indeed, a recent UBC Okanagan (UBCO) study found that many Aboriginal people found their experience at hospitals to be invasive, and the institution unresponsive to their needs. The co-authors of the study – Prof. Mike Evans, Head of Community, Culture and Global Studies, and Associate Professor Lawrence Berg – worked with UBCO colleagues and community partners to examine the relationship between urban Aboriginal people in the Okanagan Valley and mainstream social services and health institutions. Berg believes the current structure of the health-care system is not built to maximize positive health outcomes for Aboriginal people. “What it shows is there are many very deep structural processes in place that unequally affect Aboriginal communities and white communities, so white people have the privilege of longer lives and better health outcomes,” he says. Both Evans and Berg agree the issue of Aboriginal people’s health becomes one of cultural safety. “This is about the institution policing itself to ensure it is a culturally safe institution for people other than white people,” says Evans. “That’s the twist on the cultural safety approach. It’s not about blaming a particular nurse or a particular doctor for being racist; that’s not productive. It’s about ensuring being responsive as an institution, and responsible as an institution for the provision of culturally safe care.” This research is funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). The Centre for Social, Spatial and Economic Justice is primarily funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation. Research funding is also provided by CIHR, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, the Métis Nation of BC, SSHRC, and the United Nations. UBC Okanagan’s centre for social, spatial and economic Justice is a hub for social scientists undertaking interdisciplinary research in the arts, humanities, health studies and social science. Co-directors and principal researchers Lawrence Berg, Jon Corbett and Mike Evans share a vision in which all peoples, regardless of their differences, are able to live free from marginalization and oppression. the Centre works with social groups identifying as Aboriginal, disabled, economically disadvantaged, racialized, two-spirited and queer.

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