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First Nations & Inuit Health

Brighter Futures and Building Healthy Communities

The Brighter Futures program and the Building Healthy Communities program were introduced in the early 1990's (1992 and 1994 respectively) to assist First Nations and Inuit communities to develop community-based approaches to better health.

Currently, the majority of First Nations and Inuit communities receive Brighter Futures and/or Building Healthy Communities program funding.

Brighter Futures

shawl dancerThe Brighter Futures program is a community-based health promotion and ill-health prevention program for First Nations and Inuit communities. The program typically, promotes health and prevents ill-health through learning-related activities that strive to increase awareness, change attitudes, build knowledge and enhance skills.

Program Components

The program is made up of five components-mental health, child development, parenting, healthy babies and injury prevention. First Nations and Inuit communities have the flexibility to determine which program component(s) to provide community-based programs, services and/or activities in.

  1. Mental Health
    The goal of this component is to promote the development of healthy communities through community-based mental health programs, services and/or activities. Information and awareness activities on a variety of topics (ex.: depression, family violence and stress management), counselling services and wellness activities (ex.: a course in traditional shawl making and recreational activities) are some of the ways communities have promoted the health of their community.
  2. Child Development
    This component aims to ensure that children receive the nurturing they need to reach their full potential. A wide variety of community-based programs and activities have been funded under this component, such as school breakfast programs, a math learning program, a parent-child crafts program, after-school programs (ex.: a drama club and a computer club), school-based "Stop Bullying" sessions, cultural heritage activities (ex.: teaching of traditional throat singing) and toy lending libraries.
  3. Parenting
    The aim of this component is to promote culturally-sensitive parenting skills. A variety of activities have been funded through this component and include parenting workshops, parenting training programs (for example, the Next link will take you to another Web site "Nobody's Perfect" parenting program) and a support group for parents of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
  4. Healthy Babies
    To improve the health and well-being of mothers and babies is the aim of this component. A variety of activities are eligible for funding, such as pre- and post-pregnancy services and pregnancy-related education. For instance, education about breastfeeding, the importance of healthy eating, regular medical examinations and the avoidance of drugs, alcohol and tobacco during pregnancy are all examples of pregnancy-related education activities.
  5. Injury Prevention
    As the title suggests, the goal of this component is to prevent injuries. Examples of activities funded include first-aid and CPR training, water, fire and bicycle safety workshops, awareness campaigns and promotion of the use of seat belts and car seats.

Guiding Principles

The Brighter Futures program is guided by the following principles:

  • A holistic approach is essential to support First Nations and Inuit individuals, families and communities;
  • A holistic approach is best achieved when the five components of the program-mental health, child development, parenting, healthy babies and injury prevention-are coordinated and linked with each other, as well as with other programs and services;
  • Including community members in the design of a program increases the likelihood of meeting the community's needs;
  • Program designs that are community-based are more likely to meet the needs of the community;
  • Program design should occur at a pace determined by the community; and
  • A more comprehensive health program is achieved when a continuum of programs and services are offered, from health promotion and ill-health prevention to intervention and rehabilitation.

Building Healthy Communities

inukshukThe Building Healthy Communities program is designed to assist First Nations and Inuit communities to develop community-based approaches to youth solvent abuse and mental health crises, the two components of the program. First Nations and Inuit communities have the flexibility to determine which program component(s) to provide community-based programs, services and/or activities in.

  1. Solvent Abuse
    The solvent abuse component enables First Nations and Inuit communities to develop local programs aimed at preventing the abuse of solvents and to intervene as needed, which could involve residential treatment. To deliver such programs requires people who are trained, so training-related activities are also eligible for funding.
  2. Mental Health Crisis Management
    This component is designed to complement the mental health promotion and prevention activities of the Brighter Futures program. It enables First Nations and Inuit communities to respond to crises, such as suicide, as well as to heal from them. It also enables communities to receive crisis-related training, such as suicide prevention training.

Evaluation

The Brighter Futures and Building Healthy Communities programs were evaluated for the first time between November 2003 and December 2004.

A literature review, file review, survey of program administrators and workers were used to gather data for the evaluation. Information was also obtained from key informant interviews in 23 First Nations and Inuit communities and focus groups in the eight regions across Canada.

From the data gathered, the following key findings emerged:

  • The Brighter Futures and Building Healthy Communities programs continue to be relevant to the needs of First Nations people and Inuit;
  • The programs are generally successful in what they do. Some communities need assistance in program design, delivery and reporting, which tends to focus on transactions and events, rather than on the actual performance and impact of the program; and
  • The majority of respondents thought that the flexibility communities have in directing resources to address their particular needs was critical to the programs' success. This flexibility helped glue together the various parts of their programs and services, and gave people a sense of ownership and trust in their programs.

A Brighter Futures and Building Health Communities Initiatives - Evaluation Summary is available which outlines:

  • How the evaluation was conducted;
  • Evaluation findings for:
    • Services and activities
    • Mental health
    • Child development
    • Injury prevention
    • Healthy babies
    • Parenting
    • Solvent abuse
    • The relevance, success and effectiveness of the Brighter Futures and Building Healthy Communities; and
  • Recommendations

Resources