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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Health meanings, health status, and health needs of a Gitksan and Wet’suwet’en on-reserve population in B.C. Joseph, Rhea


Stakeholders in the changing environment of health care include Indian people inB.C. and Canada who are grappling with long standing problems of lowered health status.Today, potential for health improvements may be found in an opportunity for health systemchange. However, this change process is seriously hampered by incomplete and non-currenthealth information. This study addresses this information gap by obtaining and describingbase-line information on the health status and health needs of two Gitksan and Wet'suwet'enBands in B.C. via the meanings and interpretations they, themselves, attach to health. Study design includes two complementary methodologies: phenomenology andepidemiology. Qualitative data from other sources (e.g., Focus Group) supplement findings.Data collection occurred over an eighteen week period, May to September, 1991. In this study, phenomenology explores health meanings via in-depth interviews (N =9; theoretical, non-random sample). This investigation draws upon Kleinman's explanatorymodel of the health care system to explore and discover a unique culture's perception of thehealth phenomena. Qualitative data from verbatim interview transcripts were analyzedutilizing an open-coding technique with conceptual categories forming key data elements. Epidemiology, on the other hand, directs investigation into health status by means ofa health survey questionnaire (N = 97; stratified, random sample). Quantitative datadescribing personal health experiences were cross tabulated according to stratified categoriesof age, sex, tribal ancestry, and key variables identified in an epidemiologic model. Datawere further examined using the SPSSX statistical package. It was found that Gitksan and Wet'suwet'en people, though two distinct societies, holdsimilar views regarding their health experience which they describe in terms of wellness andwell-being. In only a few instances did ancestry make a difference in health status.

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