Representatives from communities across the North came together on Dec. 11 to see what direction they need to take, individually and collectively, to address community wellness.
Around 40 people from various backgrounds – like the health, recreational, social and educational fields – met at the Chief Lamalice Complex on the Hay River Reserve for a day to get familiar with what a wellness plan looks like.
The gathering was part of the Community Wellness Planning and Engagement Project by the Department of Health and Social Services reaching out to the 33 communities in the North.
A wellness plan helps direct funding for specific programs.
The project comes on the heels of changes in the funding framework to allow for more long-term planning, which is often a challenge with block funding.
People were present from the Gwich’in Tribal Council, Fort Resolution, K’atlodeeche First Nation, Hay River, Enterprise, Lutsel K’e, the Yellowknives Dene First Nations and Kakisa.
The project has been ongoing over the past year and the processes involved aim to assist communities in developing their own community wellness plans.
“We’re hoping that each community in the territory has a current wellness plan in the next few years,” said project team leader Sabrina Broadhead of the Department of Health and Social Services. “This workshop is a critical piece for moving forward. The idea is to get local people to build skills around developing plans that are relevant and don’t sit on the shelf.”
While some communities might not have plans in place, that doesn’t mean they have to start from scratch, said Broadhead.
Many communities already have programs up and running that could be incorporated into a plan. Starting where they are, communities can get a sense of who might facilitate, co-ordinate or offer certain services.
Participants at the Hay River Reserve meeting broke into groups to brainstorm what would be involved in the ideal process. The consensus was that, before beginning anything, communities need to have a solid vision, a mission, a work plan, established values, measurable goals and an idea where to obtain resources.
“We’d like to lay out these goals so that we talk about our current reality and talk about where we want to be in five to 10 years,” said Sheryl Courtoreille of the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority.
Many groups also agreed on communication plans between organizations, comparative analysis between communities and action plans.
“At that point, we want to mobilize people and just do it,” said Hanna Catholic from Lutsel K’e.
On Nov. 6 in the legislative assembly, Health and Social Services Minister Tom Beaulieu addressed the project in a ministerial statement.
“Every day we hear concerns about addictions, early childhood development, school success and family violence, among other issues,” said Beaulieu. “We all know that meaningful change happens when communities take control. The solutions to these issues come not from government headquarters, but from communities themselves.”
— Angele Cano