Doctors can play a role in ending homelessness in Indigenous communities simply by treating patients with hospitality and respect, says Métis-Cree professor and author Jesse Thistle.
Thistle, who has experienced homelessness himself, is part of a team drafting an Indigenous approach to caring for homeless patients for the Canadian Medical Association.
Thistle is developing the guidelines alongside Dr. Janet Smylie, a Métis family physician in Toronto, with guidance from Maria Campbell, a Métis elder, author, and Indigenous community research methodologist.
They are part of a wider CMA effort to provide doctors with best practices on how to treat homeless patients by connecting them with the people and systems that can provide housing, income support, mental health treatment and harm reduction programs.
Public health officials escorted by armed police through the epicenter of an outbreak. Government officials, in an effort to contain an epidemic, announcing rules forcing people off the streets. City residents fearing for their lives as a new virus kills the frail and infirm among them. That same fear leads to widespread support for draconian public health measures as long as they keep people safe.
The spread of the coronavirus has reminded us of the darker side of epidemic control. These kinds of “security-forward” responses are among the most common ways we deal with epidemics. While the COVID-19 epidemic has made these scenes familiar to us all, the above description applies just as well to the disease epicenter of Wuhan, China, as it does to how authorities right here in the US have responded to both real and perceived local epidemics.
MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions has launched 10 collaborative solutions networks with a common goal: to effect real-world social change by co-designing and demonstrating what works to address critical urban health challenges in our communities.
The 10 networks, made up of more than 170 scientists, community partners, policy makers, and people with lived expertise from across the country, came together March 2-3, 2020, for a symposium in Toronto.
About the Symposium
The Solutions for Healthy Cities Symposium was an important opportunity for network members to meet in person, share experiences, learn from each other, and mobilize to chart their paths forward. The agenda included a mix of working sessions in network teams, and time for discussion and learning as a full group.
The Symposium opened and concluded with remarks from Cat Criger, an Indigenous Elder, Traditional Teacher and Knowledge Keeper. Symposium speakers included:
Namaste Marsden & Leona Star: Advancing standards and processes for First Nations, Inuit and Métis engagement in research about them
Alisa Velonis: Tools for guided implementation
Sam Tsemberis: Reflections on innovation, advocacy and policy change
“It’s nice, and rare, to have an occasion for critical thinking. Symposiums and conferences are usually about self-promotion, but not this one!” – Network member
“Having the face to face time to get to know one another was so valuable. Not usually included in research funding but should be!” – Network member
The Keynote Reception
At the much-anticipated keynote event, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, City of Chicago, addressed network members and guests. MAP Director Dr. Stephen Hwang also spoke.
Mayor Lightfoot was then joined by Mayor John Tory, City of Toronto, for a fireside chat. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Pat O’Campo, senior MAP scientist and Executive Director of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute.
Among the guests in attendance were two former premiers of Ontario, David Peterson and Kathleen Wynne, former deputy premier Deb Matthews, and former Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion.
Co-designing for Real-world Impact: The National Solutions Networks
With the vision of creating “a healthier future for all,” the 10 solutions networks are taking on complex issues including chronic homelessness, intimate partner violence, the long-term effects of socioeconomic adversity in early life, and the links between traumatic brain injury and incarceration.
The networks’ cross-sectoral membership and partnered approach are the keys to ensuring that solutions are feasible, appropriate, and effective — and that they reflect the goals, priorities, and contexts of the communities they aim to serve.
The result will be 10 evidence-based solutions that are tested and ready for scale-up in cities across Canada.
Together, we can create a healthier future for all.
The Solutions for Healthy Cities Symposium was made possible in partnership with the St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation and thanks to the generous contributions of its visionary donors. We also wish to thank Jackman Reinvents for their incredible work bringing our message and work to life, and Spark Inc. for their superb event management.