Our Organizations Come Together
Seven of the Mamow Ahyamowen organizations came together in 2016 with the shared recognition that our communities lacked the health information they needed for program management, advocacy, and proposal development. This lack of data is an important barrier to our communities achieving health equity.
Northern Communities Face Unique Needs
We recognized that the health services and needs in Northern Ontario communities are unique. For most of the year many of our communities are only accessible by plane. Others have long drives to hospital services. Most of our communities have Nursing Stations or Health Centres that provide programs funded through contribution agreements with the Government of Canada. Community leaders such as Chiefs, Councillors, and Health Directors are expected to plan and manage health services without the quantitative data that is typically available to other leaders in the health sector. This unique context means that we need unique ways to measure and interpret our health status.
Indigenous Services Canada (formerly Health Canada) provided us with initial funding through their Health Services Integration Fund (HSIF). This allowed us to begin working together. We began to develop our shared vision at an initial meeting of the alliance in Thunder Bay in October 2016. Since then we have developed a Terms of Reference to guide the alliance’s work. We discussed shared interests and we assessed the data that our organizations collect and the software we use to manage our data. We found that we each have a unique mix of data holdings and use a variety of software across the alliance. Following discussions with the Indigenous Health Team at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) we decided to work with ICES to analyze data collected through provincial and federal systems. ICES holds a copy of the Indian Registry System (IRS) through a Data Sharing Agreement with Chiefs of Ontario (COO). Working with ICES we are able to create linked data sets that draw together First Nations data from a wide range of provincial and federal data sets.
As we work with our communities to analyze and interpret data we will continue to learn about the data needs and priorities of our communities. As our communities interpret their data we anticipate that they will identify new questions. These questions will drive future rounds of analysis. This provides direction for Mamow Ahyamowen to continue to help answer the questions that our communities are asking as they seek to achieve health equity.