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  • May 11, 2021 from 2:00pm to 3:00pm


The presence of an equity gap between the health of Indigenous peoples in Canada and their non-Indigenous counterparts has been well-established. Socio-cultural factors that affect Indigenous peoples’ health include culture loss, racism and stigmatization, loss of language and connection to the land, and feeling spiritually, emotionally, and mentally disconnected from one’s Indigenous identity1. For example, Indigenous values include having personal responsibility for well-being. However, the adoption of this concept has been diminished through European colonization and a healthcare system that is dominated by Western, biomedical informed health care approaches.
Indigenous people are 1.5 to 2 times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease (CVD) than the general Canadian population and 10.5 times more likely to die from coronary heart disease. A clearer understanding of how Indigenous participants understand their heart health and illness will help to address systemic barriers and potentially lead to both the development of culturally relevant care of Indigenous people with CVD and improved self- management of care for patients and families.
It is also known that cultural knowledge is seen as essential for addressing public health mandates to assess community health needs, develop appropriate health policies and programs, and to ensure adequate and culturally competent health services. Using photovoice methods, this study facilitated a process for Indigenous participants to reflect on and share their perceptions of Indigenous heart health with the goal of changing public health policy to better serve them and their communities. A secondary objective of this study was to facilitate Indigenous knowledge sharing between Indigenous youth and adults with heart disease or high risk of heart disease to participate and share information about their experiences and well-being.


Dr. Bernice Downey is an Anishinaabe-kwe (Indigenous woman) of Ojibwe – Saulteaux and Celtic heritage, a mother and a grandmother. She is a former nurse, a medical anthropologist and is currently cross-appointed with the Department of Psychiatry and Neuro-Behavioural Sciences & the School of Nursing in the Faculty of Health Science at McMaster University. She is also recently appointed as the inaugural Associate Dean, Indigenous Health for the Faculty of Health Sciences. Her research interests include health literacy and Indigenous Traditional knowledge and health/research system reform for Indigenous populations. She currently holds a Heart & Stroke Foundation – Canadian Institute of Health Research – Chair in Indigenous Women’s Heart and Brain Health. She is committed to addressing anti-Indigenous racism and the promotion of Indigenous self-determining approaches in health equity and system reform.

WBIIH Speaker Series Dr. Bernice Downey