Overworked Indigenous health leaders coping with the Covid-19 pandemic have a new information-sharing service designed specifically for them. InfoPoint leverages the extensive database of the First Nations Health Managers Association (FNHMA) to direct Indigenous users to credible information.
“This really is in response to what we’ve been hearing in respect to not having a place to find credible information on Covid-19,” said FNHMA CEO Marion Crowe. “We’re by no means health-service providers or experts, but we do have access to all the resources and information that’s gone out. People can call into our ‘helpful desk’ and we’ll do the digging for them.”
From 8 am to 8 pm Monday to Friday, health managers can call 1-855-446-2719 toll free or email InfoPoint@fnhma.ca to access solutions in English or French. A first-response team collects information from the caller so researchers can obtain the desired answers and respond within 30 minutes.
While it’s too early to identify clear trends, Crowe noted that since the service launched in early May they have recorded a 100% client satisfaction rate. When more data is collected, FNHMA will be in a better position to adapt messaging according to region, identify harder hit hotspots and support educational tools.
Their regular communications from Indigenous Services Canada enable the FNHMA to provide regional updates and direct resources in languages such as Cree. This initiative builds on relationships developed with organizations such as Thunderbird Partnership Foundation and First Peoples Wellness Circle, that have been regular contributors to their popular virtual town-hall series.
“We’re continuing [virtual town halls] until June 25,” Crowe told the Nation. “We were set to expire on May 21, but decided the demand is still there. We’re still getting thousands of people watching and there’s still more information to share so we’ll take it to the summer.”
IndigenousHealth.ca, which hosts that series, now also includes FNHMA’s accumulated resources on their website as a central knowledge repository. FNHMA’s research team has been continuously cultivating information in attempts to deliver the most beneficial guidance for Canada’s Indigenous communities, some of which are suffering troubling Covid-19 outbreaks.
“We see through various data sources, First Nations are behind the curve for the rest of Canada,” asserted Crowe. “Right now, we’re flattening in mainstream and First Nations are escalating. It’s really imperative that we have those localized information sources.”
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller recently highlighted the need for better data collection efforts in First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, which have a higher risk of being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. For example, an outbreak in northern Saskatchewan is presumed to have more Indigenous cases than current data reveals.
While one of FNHMA’s veteran education specialists took a work leave to go nursing in northern communities, most of their staff have adapted to supporting InfoPoint for the time being. The initiative is also an opportunity to provide summer employment for Indigenous students whose plans fell through due to the pandemic.
“As our traditional mandate of training and certification has been momentarily paused, this provided an opportunity to use existing resources to respond to this,” said Crowe. “Nobody signs up to do a helpful desk when they came to FNHMA, myself included, but it’s part of the culture and values that we go where members need us and this is where we needed to be.”
Her team impressively assembled InfoPoint and its associated knowledge repository application in three weeks of intensive work. Incoming information is tagged, sourced and summarized before being added to their system. Researchers can then easily search words in their database and comb through dozens of resources to find specific answers.
When the world eventually returns to some semblance of normal following the Covid-19 crisis, InfoPoint is intended to transition into a sustainable tool for health managers seeking general guidance. As FNHMA celebrates 10 years, Crowe believes this service is an important resource for addressing the unique needs of First Nations.
“Indigenous people want to talk to an Indigenous organization because it creates a sense of cultural safety,” explained Crowe. “We’ve always wanted to have a call-in service to accommodate those who wish to continue our oral traditions instead of reading. It’s our top priority to make sure people can make informed decisions with the resources available to them.”