CIHR Grant Awarded to Research Team at Lakehead University for Palliative Care Research in First Nations Communities

The number of Aboriginal Canadians facing end of life is increasing each year due to the growing number of Aboriginal seniors and the high burden of chronic and terminal disease amongst this population. About one third of Aboriginal Canadians live in rural or remote First Nations communities. Residents of these communities face many barriers to accessing health services, including palliative care. In addition, existing services are often not culturally appropriate. Addressing this unmet need for accessible, culturally appropriate palliative care services for Aboriginal people in First Nations communities is a growing social obligation and an emerging Canadian policy priority.

A research team based out of Lakehead University was recently awarded a 5 year Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) Aboriginal Health Intervention operating grant for project titled  “Improving End-of-Life Care in First Nations Communities: Generating a Theory of Change to Guide Program and Policy Development.” The project team consists of eight researchers and four decision maker representatives from the four First Nations study sites. The research team includes: Dr. Mary Lou Kelley, Nominated principal investigator, Lakehead University; Dr. Kevin Brazil, co-principal investigator, McMaster University; Dr. Mary Hampton, University of Regina; Gaye Hanson, Hanson and Associates; Mae Katt, CRaNHR, Lakehead University; Dr. Bruce Minore, Lakehead University; Valerie O’Brien, McMaster University; Holly Prince, CERAH, Lakehead University. Decision makers on the research team include: Marcella Kudaka, Home and Community Care Manager for Dilico Anishnabek Family Care, Jocelyne Goretski, Long-term Care Manager, Kenora Chiefs Advisory; Jeroline Smith, Home and Community Care Manager, Peguis First Nation and Ruby Miller, Director of Health, Six Nations of the Grand River.

The overall goal of this intervention research is to improve end-of -life care in four First Nations communities through developing palliative care programs and creating a culturally appropriate theory of change to guide palliative care program and policy development nationally. The proposed research adopts community capacity development as its theoretical perspective and a participatory action research approach (PAR). There are four First Nations communities as partners and study sites: Naotkamegwanning First Nation, Fort William First Nation, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory and Peguis First Nation.

The knowledge created by this research will include a tool kit of interventions for implementing palliative care in First Nations communities and a culturally appropriate theory of change to guide program and policy development nationally. Such theories of change are currently lacking, limiting the ability to evaluate the processes and outcomes of capacity development and create health services and policies consistent with a capacity development approach.

Mary Lou Kelley and Holly Prince