Forum helps guide future of West Coast community health

Anita Charleson-Touchie, Indigenous Wellness and Healing Specialist, Ucluelet First Nation, holds a bead timeline during the Nov. 2 health forum. (Photos by Nora O’Malley)
Young panelists from Ucluelet High School answer questions about health care in the area.Young panelists from Ucluelet High School answer questions about health care in the area.

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

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

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

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

Charleson-Touchie went on to explain that the Indigenous worldview 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 wellbeing that offers “safety and support to return to a natural flow of life”.

Following Charleson-Touchie’s presentation, Natasha Dumont of Island Health presented a slide presentation on population demographics and health indicators for the Alberni-Clayoquot Area District and Seth Nanayakkara provided an update on the FNHA .

After lunch, six youth from Ucluelet High School shared their thoughts on health care in the area. The youth panel was moderated by Westcoast Community Resources Society Peer Support and Addictions Counselor Tristan Godberson. All the young panelists agreed that there needs to be more options after school and that there is too much access to drugs and alcohol. The theme of creating safer and more confidential spaces was also discussed.

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

“Transportation is a big problem. There needs to be more connection on the west coast. We need better access to transport, access to counselors and access to health care,” she said.

In response, West Coast Community Health Nurse Karyn Bernard said clinical services that had been cut would soon return to the high school.

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

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

Local health authorities will use the insights gained from the Nov. 2 forum to help shape the region’s future health landscape and “advocate for more services, funding, and multisectoral collaboration to fill these gaps,” according to Missar.

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