McGill Family Medicine Studies Online, 13: e15

Merati, Nickoo (2018). Cree youth, health (miyupimaatisiiun), and engagement in health planning. McGill Family Medicine Studies Online, 13: e15 


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Indigenous communities experience a greater burden of ill health than all other communities in Canada. In the Eeyou Istchee territory of northern Quebec, all nine James Bay Cree communities experience similar health challenges. In 2014, the Cree Board of Health and Social Services for James Bay (CBHSSJB) supported an initiative to stimulate local community prioritization for health change. While many healthcare challenges identified were specific to youth (defined as less than 35 years of age), youth's perspectives in these reports to date have been limited. We hence sought to understand how Cree youth perceived youth health and their engagement in health and health planning across Eeyou Istchee. As part of a CBHSSJB-McGill partnership, this qualitative descriptive study used a community-based participatory research approach. In collaboration with Cree community partners, ten Cree youth were recruited to participate in two focus groups, and five Cree youth coordinators were recruited to participate in key informant interviews. Thematic analysis was conducted; inductive codes were grouped into thematic categories. Cree participants characterized youth engagement in the following levels and capacities: participation in community and recreational activities; membership in youth councils at the local and regional levels; and, in decision-making as planners of health-related initiatives. Cree youth recommended greater use of social media, youth assemblies, and youth planners to further strengthen youth engagement and youth health in the region. Our findings revealed an interconnectedness between youth health and youth engagement; James Bay Cree youth described how they need to be engaged to be healthy, and need to be healthy to be engaged. Cree participants contributed novel and practical insights to engage Indigenous youth in health planning across Canada.