Indigenous health care leaders meet in London to share successes in diabetes care and prevention

Health care and community leaders from over a dozen Indigenous communities across the country have gathered in London this week to launch a national roll-out of strategies for diabetes prevention and care.

This week’s meetings mark the end of a pilot project called FORGE AHEAD, and the launch of a full-scale project called Pathways to Health Equity, which will take the lessons learned from FORGE AHEAD and create a strategy to scale up across the country.

“Part of this process is learning from each other, so the leaders are really keen to find out what worked in other communities,” said Dr. Stewart Harris, professor of Family Medicine at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and the faculty lead on both projects. “We will ask, what have we learned? What are the challenges? What is the future? This gives a strategy to build on success.”

The hope is to build a toolkit that can be translated to each unique community with the ultimate goal of improving diabetes care for Indigenous communities.

“We are working with communities, within the resources that they already have, and redesigning care to work for each individual circumstance,” said Mariam Hayward, lead coordinator of the Pathways program. She said they aren’t prescribing what each community should do but rather sharing tools to allow health care leaders to identify their own priorities and determine what will work best for their unique needs.

For Dr. Harris, a physician whose work in diabetes care has been recognized internationally, this is particularly important in Indigenous communities where diabetes rates are three to five times higher than in the general population. “If you want to reduce diabetes-related complications, you have to first better manage diabetes and that’s at the core of what’s behind FORGE AHEAD and Pathways,” he said.

MEDIA CONTACT: Crystal Mackay, Media Relations Officer, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University, t. 519.661.2111 ext. 80387, c. 519.933.5944, @CrystalMackay