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Study finds culturally unsafe health care for indigenous patients

A Northern Ontario School of Medicine researcher is recommending ways to improve health care for indigenous diabetes patients.

THUNDER BAY - A study has determined that culturally unsafe health care may contribute to poorer outcomes for indigenous Canadians with Type 2 diabetes.

The finding is explained in an article published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Dr. Kristen Jacklin, an associate professor at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and five of her colleagues conducted the research in a national study investigating indigenous peoples' experiences with diabetes care.

A news release from NOSM states that participants in the study reported having negative experiences with the health-care system that affected their care.

These experiences included:  the triggering of traumatic childhood memories from residential schools, interactions that patients felt were racially motivated, limited access to care due to doctor shortages and geographic isolation, and negative interactions with health-care professionals.

According to the statement, a key finding made by the researchers was that health-care relationships can be repaired when providers demonstrate empathy, humility and patience.

Dr. Jacklin and her colleagues recommend a two-pronged approach to better care, the first being a stronger focus on cultural safety training and antiracism education for health-care workers.

The second recommendation is to enhance patient-centred approaches to care in order to respond to the cultural and social needs of indigenous patients.

Dr. Jacklin noted that many indigenous patients "avoided or disengaged from their diabetes care because of negative experiences such as derogatory or judgmental comments by health-care providers, or visual triggers in health-care settings."

She added that an equally important outcome of the study was learning directly from indigenous diabetes patients about what could be done to improve health-care relationships.

"We now have a much better sense of what patients feel their health-care providers should know about them" to improve interactions, she said.