Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 107, Issue 4–5, pp e393–e398 | Cite as

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?

  • Monique AugerEmail author
  • Teresa Howell
  • Tonya Gomes
Qualitative Research


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.

Key words

Indigenous population traditional medicine self determination holistic health 


OBJECTIFS: Cette étude visait à comprendre le rôle que peuvent jouer les pratiques de soins de santé autochtones traditionnelles pour accroître l’autodétermination individuelle en matière de soins de santé et améliorer les résultats sanitaires des Autochtones en milieu urbain au Canada.

MÉTHODE: Le projet s’est déroulé à Vancouver (Colombie-Britannique); il comportait la création et la prestation d’ateliers holistiques pour inciter des membres de la communauté (n = 35) à apprendre certains aspects des pratiques de soins de santé traditionnelles. Les effets à court et à moyen terme de ces ateliers ont été discutés durant deux rassemblements impliquant des groupes de discussion et des sondages. Les données ont été transcrites, examinées, thématiquement analysées et présentées au groupe de travail pour être validées.

RÉSULTATS: Quand les participants ont comparé leurs expériences des soins de santé traditionnels et des soins de santé occidentaux, ils ont décrit les obstacles aux soins auxquels ils ont été confrontés en essayant d’avoir accès aux médecins (p. ex., racisme, méfiance), ainsi que les avantages de la guérison traditionnelle (p. ex., le fait qu’elle soit fondée sur les relations, son approche holistique). Tous les participants ont aussi fait remarquer qu’ils se sont mieux approprié leurs choix concernant les soins de santé, et qu’ils ont amélioré leur accès aux soins de santé, tant occidentaux que traditionnels. Ils ont souligné qu’un accès élargi aux soins de santé traditionnels est crucial en milieu urbain.

CONCLUSIONS: L’autodétermination dans les communautés autochtones urbaines (et à plus petite échelle, l’appropriation par les particuliers) est un important déterminant de la santé pour les personnes et les communautés autochtones; cela est apparu clairement dans l’analyse des résultats de recherche et attesté dans la littérature. Notre étude montre aussi que l’accès à la guérison traditionnelle peut rehausser l’appropriation des soins par les membres de la communauté. Ces constatations soulignent qu’il existe un besoin continu et croissant d’aider les Autochtones en milieu urbain à avoir accès aux structures de soutien des soins de santé traditionnels.

Mots clés

population d’origine amérindienne médecine traditionnelle autodétermination santé holistique 


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Indigenous Research PartnershipsUniversity of British Columbia (UBC)VancouverCanada
  2. 2.Aboriginal Health ServicesVancouver Coastal HealthVancouverCanada

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