The 2012 NCCPH Summer Institute, an opportunity to advance health equity and build on experience

Public health actors from all across Canada are seeking new and innovative ways of addressing health equity. During her opening speech at the 2012 Summer Institute, Dr. Margaret Fast, former NCCID Scientific Director and former Acting Chief Provincial Public Health Officer for Manitoba (retired), encouraged participants to “consider and discuss initiatives that promote equal opportunities for all Canadians to health (because) collaborative innovations are needed to close health gaps, and identify health equity tools that support efforts to address determinants of health.”

The six National Collaborating Centres for Public Health (NCCPH) welcomed 101 participants to the 2012 Summer Institute in Kelowna, BC on May 15-16, 2012. The NCC for Aboriginal Health was this year's host for the event. Under the theme Advancing Health Equity, Building on Experience, the Summer Institute was an opportunity to explore the role of experiences in public health evidence and decision making, and to identify strategies and activities to help address health equity.

The Summer Institute is a unique knowledge exchange opportunity. Through rich discussions with their audiences, the Centres can identify the public health actors' needs in order to develop the appropriate products and tools as to better respond to them.

Among the various presentations, there were three keynote presentations from renowned Canadian speakers, a panel on Experiential Evidence and multiple concurrent workshops organized by one or more of the six National Collaborating Centres for Public Health.

Keynote speakers included:

- Dr. Kwame McKenzie, Senior Scientist, at the Centre for Mental Health and Addictions, and Senior Scientist of Social Equity and Health Research in Toronto, whose presentation entitled Health Equity on Mental Health: A Journey from Theory to Practice focused on different actions taken over the decades to improve UK's Department of Health delivery of appropriate mental health services to diverse ethnic groups. Dr. McKenzie also discussed how the UK's actions were relevant and applicable to Canada. He explained that the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) had produced a Health Equity Plan, was engaging in outreach to increase its involvement with urban Aboriginal populations. Prior to these changes, a lack of cross-cultural communications was apparent.  Focusing on health equity made it easier to articulate measurable disparities and produce outcomes.  

-Dr. Diego Garcia, Public Health Coordinator for the Assembly of First Nations in Ottawa, in his presentation entitled The Challenge of Interculturality – Sharing the lessons of the American Countries discussed the findings of the 2011 Pan-American Health Organization conference on Indigenous Health Human Resources Issues. Dr. Garcia highlighted the best approaches that have been taken by some of the American countries to improve health equity of Indigenous peoples. For example, in Guatemala and Panama, public health authorities encouraged birth centres to hire staff that could communicate in local Indigenous languages, and made traditional medicines available as a way to help address high maternal and infant mortality rates among Indigenous populations.

-Dr. Jeff Reading, Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Health Research, University of Victoria, Faculty of Human and Social Development, presented on Core Competency in Public Health, Policy and Practice – An Opportunity for Advancing Health Equity and Building on Experience. Dr. Reading indicated that core competencies provided an opportunity for greater NCC collaboration around advancing health equity. Long term change, however, would require more collaboration between researchers, policy makers, government and volunteer agencies.

Keynote presentations were supported by in the afternoon by an Experiential Evidence Panel with invited speakers Anita KothariKim Scott and Liz Rykert. This panel explored experiential evidence in public health with presentations on practice wisdom in the context of urban Aboriginal parenting, the power of social proof using examples from the Canadian Positive Deviance project, and tacit knowledge in public health program planning.

The six Centres hosted a series of concurrent workshops, related to their own area of work (Aboriginal Health, Determinants of Health, Environmental Health, Healthy Public Policy, Infectious Diseases and Methods and Tools). Among others, workshop themes ranged from Ethics into Practice, and Assessing Political Acceptability through an Analysis of the Actors Involved to The Learning Circle: A “New” Approach to Integrated Knowledge Translation (KT). The workshop PPTs are now available online, to consult them, click here.

Other networking activities included a Knowledge Fair, a poster presentation, and the launching of a unique Journal. On Tuesday May 15, the NCC for Aboriginal Health launched a special edition of LAKE: A Journal of Arts and Environment, with the University of British Columbia (Okanagan Campus). This dazzling new issue highlights the connection between Indigenous peoples, health and place. Guest editor Dr. Sarah de Leeuw, a Research Associate with the NCC for Aboriginal Health noted that "There is a solid evidence base that creative expression and art can lead to good health. Certainly for Indigenous people, a strong sense of cultural resiliency and identity rooted in place is integral to health - and creative and artistic expression is a vital way to express that relationship." This special edition of the LAKE journal was launched at a wine and cheese evening at the Kelowna Art Gallery on May 15 as part of the  Summer Institute.

In her closing comments, Dr. Margo Greenwood, academic leader of the NCC for Aboriginal Health, acknowledged participants for their courageous comments on public health, and recognized the objective of optimal health and well-being for all people living in Canada. She mentioned that throughout the Summer Institute, “participants recognized the need to address inequities in public health, be courageous and be advocates for change and transformation.”

To consult the SI 2012 ppts presentations, click here.