By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – With the second COVID wave on the horizon, the First Nations Health Manager Association is hosting a second round of virtual town halls to provide credible and reliable information on the pandemic to the various Indigenous communities.
During the first COVID wave earlier this year, the FNHMA saw a need to provide virtual information sessions that are specifically geared towards Indigenous peoples in a way that is culturally sensitive. The 14 bilingual town halls each lasted an hour and were streamed online through Indigenous Health Today. The remaining town halls will stream on the FNHMA, Alberta Native News and APTN Facebook pages.
The second round of town halls was launched Thursday, Sept. 24, at 1 p.m. EST and will continue every Thursday at the same time until Dec. 10.
“It’s COVID two plus flu,” FNHMA CEO Marion Crowe said of the second wave. “It’s now, more than ever, that we have to be diligent about sharing information that is credible, relevant and informative to the right people at the right time.”
Each week someone from Indigenous Services Canada will provide a COVID update, with case figures from the different nations on Turtle Island, in addition to various pieces of information from a federal perspective, Crowe said.
“We will also be talking in coming town halls about the importance of mental wellness during this time, addictions and what that looks like during a pandemic, (and) other social determinants of health,” she said. “We will keep people informed on how the Canadian Red Cross is responding to Indigenous communities right now.”
Crowe says getting this information out to the public is especially vital at this time, with “alarming rates at which our nations are having positive cases.”
“When you think of COVID in a community with no drinking water (and) overcrowded with underlying health conditions, it’s like a match in a haystack,” she said.
In addition to the re-launch of the town hall series, FNHMA will be hosting a virtual celebration of First Nations healthcare workers on Nov. 4 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. EST, which will honour the new class of health managers graduating from the FNHMA program and giving an Award of Excellence for an outstanding leader in healthcare. The ceremony will include musical performances and special guests, including Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price and Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde.
“We wanted to provide balance,” says Crowe. “While we’re looking at systemic racism and the global pandemic crisis right now, we also have to give thanks (and) celebrate these folks who are exhausted and give their dedication, not just during this time, but every day.”
This event will be livestreamed for free on the FNHMA, NationTalk, Indigenous Health Today, Alberta Native News and APTN social media pages and websites.