According to medical professionals, Indigenous people continue to face disparities in health and they are hoping a conference in Saskatoon will help curb that trend.

The Miyo Mahcihowin Indigenous Health Conference is bringing together several different voices to find ways to address the health disparities experienced by many Indigenous people.

Health inequalities for Indigenous people and the social determinants that cause them have been widely documented in this country.

“Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians recognize that many previous and current health systems have not been sufficient in eliminating the health disparities experienced by Indigenous people,” said Dr. Jaris Swidrovich, a pharmacist from the University of Saskatchewan.

Dr. Swidrovich, a member of Yellow Quill First Nation, is the co-chair of the planning committee for the health conference.

“In organizing the gathering, we wanted to ensure that the process aligned with the TRC calls to action,” he said.

Dr. Holly Graham, the co-chair, from Thunderchild First Nation, says social determinants are a huge factor in these disparities.

She believes the approach to solving them is similar to the approach to reconciliation.

“What is really important for reconciliation is truth and reconciliation,” said Dr. Graham. “So we have to understand how the truth and reality of today occurred and we can’t understand that without going back to the history.”

Dr. Graham spoke about her mother’s experience in residential schools and how that impacted her growing up. She says this conference is about addressing those social issues in the wake of the residential school system. In her belief, this has to be done at the community level.

“There are people who are living these experiences and the have the knowledge and they know more than anyone what the gaps and barriers are,” said Dr. Graham. “Also, they have a better understanding of what the solutions are.”

Just as it took years for these health disparities to appear, Dr. Graham believes it will take years before they can be fully addressed.

Over two days, the conference attendees heard presentations from several different voices on Indigenous health. Dr. James Makokis, a nutritionist from northern Alberta and Ile-a-la-Crosse Mayor Duane Favel were among the presenters.

Miyo mahcihowin is Cree for “a good way of living.”

(PHOTO:  Medical professionals gather for two days of discussion on Indigenous health. Photo by Joel Willick.)