THUNDER BAY -- A new agreement aims to find ways to help give communities better access to cancer detection and prevention programs.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Harvey Yesno and Cancer Care Ontario president and CEO Dr. Michael Sherar signed a relationship protocol Wednesday at the Keewaywin Conference. That protocol is a key initiative for Cancer Care’s Aboriginal Cancer Strategy to build stronger relationships with First Nations.
“We know that the cancer statistics for these communities are worse than for the general population,” he said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon. “So we need to have some very specific strategies working with these communities to find out and implement plans that are going to work in terms of improving cancer services.”
One of the biggest challenges for many First Nations is combating the lack of access to health services from their remote communities. This includes screening programs that may detect early signs of cancer.
“We know that the (Aboriginal) participation in our screening programs for cancer—breast, cervical, colorectal screening—is less than the general population,” Sherar said.
“We need to find ways in which we can increase that participation. Those strategies will be specific to remote communities, so we wanted to develop those strategies with the communities so they work for them.”
Chief Yesno says the protocol will raise the profile around cancer care for First Nations.
“It’s a serious issue, and there are a lot of people that are on board to help out with addressing the issue of cancer rates in our community.”
The protocol will promote measures to prevent cancer, such as diet, exercise and quitting the smoking of commercial tobacco. Yesno says linguistic and cultural barriers will be worked around to create a greater understanding.
“We’re applying some of their medical terms through the dialects that we have,” he says.
Sherar added taht Cancer Care is signing several of these kinds of agreements with other First Nation groups across the province in order to create productive relationships.
“Much of it is sitting down and listening to the communities,” he said.
The conference continues Thursday.