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Forum helps guide future of West Coast community health

Connection was a resounding theme to emerge on Nov. 2 at the annual West Coast Health Forum at the Tofino Community Hall in unceded Tla-o-qui-aht territory.

Connection was a resounding theme to emerge on Nov. 2 at the annual West Coast Health Forum at the Tofino Community Hall in unceded Tla-o-qui-aht territory.

Co-hosted by Coastal Family Resource Coalition and the Rural and Remote Division of Family Practice, about 80 people attended the forum, including leaders from Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA), First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), Pacific Rim Hospice Society, Westcoast Community Resources Society and more.

Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation and owner of Tiichmis Wellness Anita Charleson-Touchie gave an opening presentation that centred around ‘What does health mean to us?’ She showed the audience a bead timeline that represented 15,000 years. Each bead represents a generation and the larger beads represent historical events like first contact and residential schools, said Charleson-Touchie.

“Despite all the pain and trauma, we still have our values,” she said.

Charleson-Touchie went on to explain that the Indigenous world view focuses on spirituality, relationship to the land, culture and ceremony.

She recommended reading the book ‘The Chalice and the Blade’ by Riane Eisler, and suggested an approach to health care and wellness that offers “safety and support to return to a natural flow in life”.

Following Charleson-Touchie’s presentation, Natasha Dumont from Island Health delivered a slideshow on population demographics and health indicators for the Alberni-Clayoquot Region District and Seth Nanayakkara gave an update from FNHA.

After lunch, six Ucluelet Secondary School youth shared their thoughts on health care in the region. The youth panel was facilitated by Westcoast Community Resources Society peer support and addictions counsellor Tristan Godberson. All the youth panelists agreed that there needs to be more after school options and that there is too much access to drugs and alcohol. The topic of creating more safe and confidential spaces also came up.

Grade 9 student Kailea Sked articulated the concerns of her peers.

“Transportation is a big one. There needs to be more connection on the West Coast. We need more access to transport, access to counsellors, and access to health care,” she said.

In response, West Coast community health nurse Karyn Bernard said clinical services that were taken away are coming back to the high school soon.

Coalition co-ordinator Faye Missar helped organize the event. She said she was happy with how the day went.

“It was impactful to meet in person again. Anita Charleson-Touchie’s presentation and the local youth panel discussion were the highlights for me; I was inspired,” said Missar.

Local health authorities will use the knowledge gained during the Nov. 2 forum to help shape the future health landscape of the region and “advocate for more services, funding, and multi-sectoral collaboration to fill those gaps”, according to Missar.

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