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Health ᒥᔪᐱᒫᑎᓰᐧᐃᓐ

Miiyuupimaatisiun Committee meetings empower local healthcare

BY Patrick Quinn Mar 16, 2024

A three-day training and planning session for Miyupimaatisiiun Committee members was held in Montreal February 20-22 to better align the region’s healthcare objectives with local needs. Over 100 professionals from across Eeyou Istchee attended, encouraged by the growing collaboration between communities. 

“The whole idea is to have the Cree Nation Government, the Cree Health Board and local communities working in collaboration to address health and wellbeing,” said Rodney Mark, the CNG director of social and culture development. “It’s a cooperation to make things more community designed and led.”

The meeting builds on the agreement signed last September between the CNG, Cree health and school boards, and all communities to support Community Miyupimaatisiiun Committees. A consensus-making process is now determining shared responsibilities to guide their operations. 

A similar gathering of Miyupimaatisiiun Committees last year helped establish action plans for implementing each community’s top priorities, which health board chairperson Bertie Wapachee said, “paves the way for a more holistic, grassroots, cross-entity approach to health and healing in our communities.” 

CBHSSJB executive director Daniel St-Amour noted that “80% of what contributes to good health happens at the community level where the Miyupimaatisiiun Committees play a critical role in coordinating care among local partners.” 

The meeting was a response to needs expressed by the committees: support for establishing local roles and bylaws, information about regional strategic planning and funding sources, and facilitating networks. Presentations from public health and the Eeyou Eenou Police Force helped clarify various issues.

“We’d like to facilitate getting the communities to work together in addressing health and social issues at the same time,” explained Mark. “It’s getting people to know one another so they know who to contact. If something happens regarding domestic violence, everyone will know where to go at the local level, with the police and support network.”

Over the three days, team-building workshops identified objectives, and offered training in data analysis, budgeting and partnership management. Committees developed and presented action plans on the third day with best practices shared by the more advanced groups. 

“Some committees like Waswanipi are pretty active,” said Judy Nakogee, who organized the event. “They’re exciting to see. We want to have a gathering like that yearly to network and see what the other communities are working on.”

Nakogee works closely with Mark to determine what committees need and help them take the next steps. As some committees are less clear on their precise roles within the regional strategy, the gathering was an opportunity to respond to these challenges. 

“We want to work towards standardizing all of them to have the same process,” Nakogee said. “Miyupimaatisiiun should have one vision, one mission, but different goals for their community. They’re all a bit different – different bylaws, some are appointed to sit there, some are voted in.”

One priority is to get committee chairpersons and directors of social development to form working relationships and understand which CHB personnel to contact for specific resources. The health board is emphasizing prevention, intervention and post-intervention programming.

“The Cree Health Board wants to play an active role in the prevention programming,” said Mark. “Through the Miyupimaatisiiun Committees, we also want to do a lot of post-intervention, follow-up after. Those are key things moving toward healthier communities.” 

Mark said this new approach is still in its infancy and will likely take five years to achieve consistent programming. 

“How do we maneuver all the social or health issues affecting our communities?” asked Mark. “Where do you start? We can’t deal with everything all at once, so we have to deal with it in a very strategic way. It’s a long route but the dividends in the long run will help everyone involved.”

Enhancing communication enables a more proactive approach to addressing major issues like diabetes, which will be discussed at the CNG meeting on March 20, and emerging threats like cyberstalking and the photoshopping of inappropriate pictures of Cree women and girls. 

For instance, there are concerns about sexual harassment in the workplace and creating safe spaces within communities. Community Chiefs and police departments provide regular updates about local developments, relevant statistics and potential solutions. 

Committees are expected to continue annual gatherings until the healthcare system’s transition is firmly established. In the meantime, meetings are scheduled via Teams with committee chairpersons and directors of social development. 

“I think we’ll continue getting everyone together just to get a sense of how everybody’s progressing and how they’re working,” said Mark. “We should all be working together as the Cree Nation to address these issues because they’re affecting us all. To have a healthy community it takes a community.”

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Patrick Quinn lives in Montreal with his wife and two small children. With a passion for words and social justice, he enjoys sharing Eeyou Istchee's stories and playing music.