Moving toward holistic wellness, empowerment and self-determination for Indigenous peoples in Canada: Can traditional Indigenous health care practices increase ownership over health and health care decisions?
OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to understand the role that traditional Indigenous health care practices can play in increasing individual-level self-determination over health care and improving health outcomes for urban Indigenous peoples in Canada. METHODS: This project took place in Vancouver, British Columbia and included the creation and delivery of holistic workshops to engage community members (n = 35) in learning about aspects of traditional health care practices. Short-term and intermediate outcomes were discussed through two gatherings involving focus groups and surveys. Data were transcribed, reviewed, thematically analyzed, and presented to the working group for validation. RESULTS: When participants compared their experiences with traditional health care to western health care, they described barriers to care that they had experienced in accessing medical doctors (e.g., racism, mistrust), as well as the benefits of traditional healing (e.g., based on relationships, holistic approach). All participants also noted that they had increased ownership over their choices around, and access to, health care, inclusive of both western and traditional options. They stressed that increased access to traditional health care is crucial within urban settings. CONCLUSIONS: Self-determination within Indigenous urban communities, and on a smaller scale, ownership for individuals, is a key determinant of health for Indigenous individuals and communities; this was made clear through the analysis of the research findings and is also supported within the literature. This research also demonstrates that access to traditional healing can enhance ownership for community members. These findings emphasize that there is a continued and growing need for support to aid urban Indigenous peoples in accessing traditional health care supports.