Health: Making Mouths Matter

Aug 04, 2023
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The Health Team continues to work on unique and important projects to further healthcare access, equity, and advocacy for Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit, transgender, and gender-diverse (WG2STGD+) people across Turtle Island and Inuit Nunangat. We recently published Making Mouths Matter: An Investigation into Anti-Indigenous Racism (AIR) and its Impacts on the Oral Healthcare of Indigenous Women, Two-Spirit, Transgender, and Gender Diverse People in Canada. the report seeks to understand how AIR impacts these populations, but also what can be done within the system to prevent it.

We developed two surveys, one for oral healthcare practitioners and one for Sharing Circle participants. The goal of the first survey was to see if Indigenous methods, history, and employees were part of the oral healthcare offered by oral healthcare practitioners. The goal of the second survey was to encourage participants to share their knowledge, needs, and experiences. Virtual and in-person sharing circles were conducted to clarify further and share history and information.

These valuable activities emphasized the direct connection between oral health and the overall health of Indigenous People. After completing the surveys, the participants of the eight Sharing Circles (four virtual, four in-person) sat with us to speak about their experiences firsthand. From this, we used thematic analysis, as well as community-based participatory action research approaches to find the elements of oral healthcare that were most affected by racism. We also developed recommendations for ending racism at a systemic level.

Addressing oral healthcare is essential to ensuring the overall healthcare of Indigenous Peoples and strengthening trust and respect between Indigenous communities and current and future oral healthcare providers. Through this project, we hope to highlight how distinctions-based approaches can be incorporated into practice to:

  • address the oral healthcare needs of Indigenous WG2STGD+ people
  • explore how Traditional Knowledge and Teachings can be a part of community-based oral healthcare programs
  • understand better the needs of on-and off-reserve, urban, rural, and remote Indigenous WG2STGD people, and what oral healthcare services are desired
  • determine how oral healthcare providers can engage in better practices and access the training and resources needed to provide culturally relevant oral healthcare to Indigenous WG2STGD+ people

An interesting aspect of this project was the ability to conduct in-person Sharing Circles in Vancouver (on xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations territory), Winnipeg (on Treaty No. 1 Territory), Happy Valley Goose Bay (on Nitassinan (Innu) Territory) and Rankin Inlet (on Inuit Nunangat).

The Health Team is grateful for time and knowledge that participants gave towards this project. We look forward to helping to improve oral healthcare and the overall healthcare of Indigenous WG2STGD+ people across Turtle Island and Inuit Nunangat.