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Relationship building with First Nations and public health

​Exploring principles and practices for engagement to improve community health


This LDCP project intends to identify mutually beneficial, respectful and effective principles and practices of engagement between First Nation communities and public health units in Northeastern Ontario. Engagement, for the purposes of this project, is defined as a process of involvement through a respectful relationship.

Ontario public health units deliver a broad range of population health programs. These programs aim to improve and protect the health of all and ensure everyone has equal opportunities for health. However, public health units do not systematically engage with First Nation communities to ensure a seamless public health system. Within Northeastern Ontario, there are 39 First Nation communities where Indigenous people live on reserve land as designated within the Indian Act.

Public health units have an interest in developing processes to effectively engage with First Nation communities in a respectful and mutually beneficial way. Little formal guidance is available to public health from the province on the best ways to do this. In addition, we know little about how First Nations wish to engage and collaborate with local public health units.  Outcomes from this research will be an important first step in working towards improved opportunities for health for all.

Indigenous Circle

To ensure that the overall approach to this project includes First Nations voices, the project team includes an Indigenous Circle. This is comprised of representatives with expertise, experience and Indigenous perspectives from communities within the Northeast. They are responsible for guiding the project team and informing important decisions about the project’s design, direction and implementation. 

Project components

This project will follow the First Nations principles of Ownership, Control, Access and Possession, also known as OCAP®.  These principles are part of a comprehensive research framework which embraces self-determination as to how data involving First Nations is collected, used and shared. There are two parts to the project:

  1. Reviewing the literature
    A literature review of academic journals and other publications will explore principles and strategies of engagement and collaboration between Indigenous people and Canadian public sector agencies in the last 10 years. The purpose of the review is to find existing work for this project to build on.

  2. Gathering and sharing learning
    The research team will scan for examples of engagement between public health units (or other types of organizations) and Indigenous people and communities in the past 10 years. The purpose of the scan is to identify recent examples that we can learn from to help identify principles and strategies that have or have not worked.

The scan will be done in two phases.

The first phase will be an online survey asking for examples of engagement or collaboration. The survey will be sent to Ontario public health units and others groups that have engaged with First Nations.

The second phase will be conducted through key informant focus groups or sharing circles involving Northeast Ontario First Nation communities, Tribal Councils or First Nation regional health service organizations identified in the first phase as having engaged with public health.

The team will analyze and interpret the data to develop guidance in the form of potential principles and strategies for good engagement.  They will actively share results with public health units, First Nations, and others who may have an interest in developing respectful engagement strategies.

Knowledge products

Project summary [PDF]

Literature review report [PDF] and summary [PDF]

Ontario public health unit survey full report [PDF] and summary [PDF]

Final Key Informant Interviews Report​ [PDF​]

Page last reviewed:
Page last updated: 2018-09-07 9:42 AM
Uncontrolled print copy. Valid only on day of Print: [date]
Page updated on [date/time] 2018-09-07 9:42 AM
© , Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion