NEWS

First Nations need to shape their own health care: Joe Gallagher

05/06/2015 05:52 EDT | Updated 05/06/2016 05:59 EDT
First Nations people face more health challenges than the general Canadian population, and the head of the First Nations Health Authority — which partners with regional health authorities to deliver health services to aboriginal people in B.C. — says they need to be a part of finding a solution.

"First Nations need to be involved in the designing and delivering of and determining what health services look like for them," CEO Joe Gallagher told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

According to Health Canada, if you are aboriginal, you are 1.5 times more likely to get heart disease, three to five times more likely to have Type 2 diabetes and eight to 10 times more likely to get tuberculosis.

While aboriginal people make up 4.3 per cent of the overall Canadian population, they contract 15 per cent of new HIV and AIDS infections.

"Colonization created reserve systems. It created alienation from resources and lands and took away from the traditional lifestyle that we had," said Gallagher.

"We haven't made the transition from the impact of colonization to where we need to be."

Access to heath care isn't universal

Gallagher said First Nations living on remote reserves often don't have access to the same health services other communities have — but often the same goes for people living in big urban centres.

"We find that a lot of our people are not connected to family physicians and a lot of people are transient," he said.

"They're going back and forth [to their communities]. When that's happening their health records are not transferred with them."

Working together to find a way forward

Today and tomorrow, representatives from more than 200 First Nations in British Columbia are meeting with provincial and federal government officials at the FNHA's annual forum — Gathering Wisdom for a Shared Journey.

"This year's conference is an exciting opportunity for us to roll up our sleeves and to get some work done," said Gallagher.

To hear the full interview with Joe Gallagher, listen to the audio labelled: Designing First Nations health care.

MORE:cbcNews