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Doctors take aim at aboriginal health

CMA announces new initiatives

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Feb 11/02) - The Canadian Medical Association hopes a new initiative will help improve the health of aboriginal peoples.

The CMA launched the Office for Public Health during a visit by president Dr. Henry Haddad to Yellowknife last week.

Haddad and Dr. Stanley Volland, president of the Quebec Medical Association, announced the new initiative during a meeting with Health and Social Services Minister Michael Miltenberger and Northern physicians.

The initial mandate includes four objectives: a recruitment drive among First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples to be trained in health professions; an increased focus on smoking among aboriginal youth; the creation of research programs for aboriginal health; and promoting leadership among the aboriginal medical community.

The CMA is also expected to strike a new partnership with the National Aboriginal Health Association.

Both organizations hope the partnership could be a solution to the difficulty of attracting physicians to rural areas and Northern communities.

"We have to increase the access for training for aboriginal people to get the training for health professions," said Vollant, an Innu from the St. Lawrence River's northern shore. "If they get the training they will come back home."

Haddad saw the new partnership and creation of the Office for Public Health as means to kick-start health care initiatives inspired by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples nearly 10 years ago.

"We realize that the CMA cannot do it alone, and we have to partner with government, and we have to partner with the aboriginal community," said Haddad.

Dr. Judith Bartlett, chair of the National Aboriginal Health Organization, said in a press statement the group is looking forward to working with the CMA on issues of mutual interest.

"We recognize that promoting the involvement of aboriginal peoples at all levels in the health care field, furthering useful research in areas of concern to aboriginal peoples and co-operating with others to encourage healthy living are all required to improve aboriginal peoples' health."