A new study by UBC Okanagan researchers partnering with local Aboriginal Friendship Centres has investigated the relationship between the urban Aboriginal population in the Okanagan Valley and the region's mainstream social service and healthcare delivery systems.
Results of the project indicate that Aboriginal People feel excluded from mainstream services.
"Previous research from other communities suggests that urban Aboriginal people often fall through the cracks in both health and social service delivery," said principal investigator Michael Evans, Head of Community, Culture and Global Studies, and co-director of the Centre for Social, Spatial and Economic Justice (CSSEJ) at UBC Okanagan. "The results of this project confirmed those earlier findings."
Project researchers decided to undertake a qualitative study that provided for extensive discussions with urban Aboriginal people about their experiences in the healthcare system. Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Barriers to Health and Social Service Delivery for Urban Aboriginal People in the Okanagan Valley study began in 2006 and involved 20 co-investigators, collaborators, and research assistants.
Fifty members of the urban Aboriginal community were interviewed in the research project: 10 from Penticton, and 20 each from Kelowna and Vernon.
Researchers felt that it was especially important to learn about the experiences of urban Aboriginal people, because many are not eligible for on-reserve services.
Evans said researchers discovered that Aboriginal organizations like Friendship Centres often fill the cracks in the mainstream systems and they provide both health and social services to urban Aboriginal people, thus placing greater stress on already under-funded programs and services.
"More importantly, an overwhelming majority of participants described their experiences in mainstream social service and healthcare systems in very negative terms," said co-investigator Lawrence Berg, Associate Professor and co-director of the CSSEJ at UBC Okanagan. "Participants often described their experiences in terms of feeling alienated, excluded, marginalized and discriminated against because of their identity as Aboriginal people."
Researchers believe that the experiences point to significant need for change in social service and healthcare delivery in the Okanagan.
"While all users of these services would be exposed to some of the negative experiences described by participants," said Berg, "many of the problems are clearly related to the fact that Aboriginal people often appear to be treated differently in both the social service and healthcare systems."
For more information, visit the Centre for Social, Spatial and Economic Justice at UBC Okanagan (www.chrdi.org/CSSEJ/cssejsite).
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