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University of Saskatchewan awarded $5M for Indigenous health research

USask researchers Dr. Caroline Tait and Simon Lambert with NEIHR partners Métis Nation-Saskatchewan Health Minister Marg Friesen, Whitecap Dakota First Nation Chief Darcy Bear, and MN-S President Glen McCallum. Courtesy University of Saskatchewan

University of Saskatchewan (USask) researchers have been awarded $5 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

The money came from a new $110.8-million, 16-year national program — Network Environments for Indigenous Health Research (NEIHR) — led by USask faculty member and scientific director of the CIHR Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health, Dr. Carrie Bourassa.

“Whether it’s population health data, clinical data, community-based research… data is very, very important in order to understand health disparities and to inform the health-care system,” USask medical anthropologist and member of the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan Dr. Caroline Tait said in an interview with Global News.

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“Through these nine health research networks across Canada, researchers, elders, and communities will work together to conduct vitally important health research based on the priorities and values of Indigenous peoples,” USask vice-president of research Karen Chad said in a statement.

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“This Indigenous-led, community-based approach will ensure better health outcomes for Indigenous peoples and foster the next generation of Indigenous health researchers.

The national co-ordinating centre will be based at USask and will work collaboratively with NEIHR centres across the country to advance national and international Indigenous health research partnerships.

The centre will also establish an annual international Indigenous health research conference and help evaluate the effectiveness of the new research networks.

“The networks will help improve the health of Indigenous people by removing the barriers communities face in conducting their own health research, and by matching community needs with researcher interests and expertise,” said Tait.

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Tait has been awarded $1.5 million to lead the national centre that will co-ordinate health research and training with the other regional Indigenous health research networks.

Two intertwined Saskatchewan networks — one for First Nations communities and one for Métis communities — will be established with funding from post-secondary institutions: $400,000 from USask, $75,000 from the University of Regina and $25,000 from the First Nations University of Canada.

Over five years, these two networks will hire 12 people, award over $300,000 in community project grants and support more than 50 Indigenous students.

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Research assistants hired from Indigenous communities will collect data in communities across the province, community research facilitators will connect communities to relevant research opportunities, and elders and knowledge holders will provide cultural guidance on relationship building, protocol, research, and community and land-based learning.

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“This project will provide an opportunity to collect and protect Métis-specific health data to inform Métis health and well-being priorities which will then determine areas of health care program design and service delivery to improve the overall wellness of our citizens, based on our identity, culture and values,” Métis Nation-Saskatchewan Health Minister Marg Friesen said in the statement.

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