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New research grant targets heart health in Indigenous communities

Jun 18, 2018
Guylaine Spencer

Bernice Downey

Above: Dr. Bernice Downey

Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death and hospitalization for adult Indigenous people in Canada, and it is rising, says Dr. Bernice Downey, Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, McMaster University.

Downey is leading a research project that has received funding to explore Indigenous understanding of heart health for those who are at risk of developing or currently experiencing cardiovascular disease. Better understanding of Indigenous approaches to heart health will be used to inform public health policy in the future.

The CIHR Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health (IAPH) in partnership with the Institute of Aging (IA), the Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health (ICRH) and the Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis (IMHA) has awarded her team a Catalyst Grant in the amount of $111,000. This grant provides seed money to support research activities related to Indigenous approaches to wellness which represent the first steps towards the pursuit of more comprehensive funding opportunities (e.g., operating grants).

The project will use “Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR)”. Downey explains that “CBPR is an attempt to develop culturally relevant research models that address issues of injustice, inequity, and exploitation. Cultural knowledge is seen as essential for addressing public health mandates, to assess community health needs, develop appropriate health policies and programs, and ensure adequate and culturally competent health services. This study aims to illuminate individual, culturally relevant concepts of well-being and illness of Indigenous participants who have been diagnosed with CVD through the use of Photovoice. Photovoice is a CBPR method that allows people to identify, represent & enhance their community through photographic technique.”

The Photovoice method asks research participants to go out into their community and photograph relevant information for a specific research question. Participants then describe what is happening in each photograph before bringing their photographs to a large group sharing circle to discuss their photos together. This technique is specifically designed to tell the truth of marginalized or underrepresented communities and give a voice in public policy debates to those who have remained unheard. Through Photovoice, the research team hopes to gain a greater understanding of how Indigenous people with cardiovascular disease think about their heart health and well-being in the context of their community.

Downey is a Medical Anthropologist, the Indigenous Health Lead, Faculty of Health Science, and an Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing and the Department of Psychiatry at McMaster University.

Dr. Patrician Strachan, Associate Professor in the School of Nursing, is also one of the investigators  on the project.

Grant details:

Downey, Bernice (PI). Team participant list: Dr. Chelsea Gabel, Canada Research Chair, Associate Professor, Health Aging and Society/Indigenous Studies, McMaster University; Dr. Karen Hill, Primary Care Physician,  Co-lead, Juddah’s Place’; Elder Jan Koho:tio Longboat, Six Nations; Ms. Connie McKnight, Executive Director, De dwa da dehs-nye-Aboriginal Health Centre; Elder Tehahenteh Miller, Six Nations; Dr. Michele Parent, Provincial Practice Lead, Indigenous Cultural Safety Program, Ontario; Elder Peter Schuler, Mississaugas of New Credit; Dr. Patricia Strachan, Associate Professor Nursing, McMaster University. The CIHR Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health (IAPH) in partnership with the Institute of Aging (IA), the Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health (ICRH) and the Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis (IMHA), Catalyst Grant: Indigenous Approaches to Wellness Research. $111, 000. Jan-1-18 to Mar-31-19


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