The Aboriginal Children’s Hurt & Healing (ACHH) Initiative is a research initiative which aims to improve Indigenous children’s health. The ACHH Initiative works with Indigenous communities/health centers and clinicians to bridge the gap in the understanding of Aboriginal children’s pain and hurt and with universities and clinicians to improve their knowledge to provide more appropriate culturally safe care. Our team has been working to support First Nation communities to identify the ways they want to support children to be healthy and mobilize that knowledge to health providers to work in partnership in their wellness journey.
Research shows under-treatment of pain can lead to learning disabilities, heightened medical fears, anxiety, chronic pain, impaired development, poor school outcomes and inadequate health care that can impact the course of a child’s life. Because of this long and short-term impact, it is critical that we work towards understanding these complex issues.
The goal of the ACHH Initiative is to improve the health care experiences of Indigenous children and youth by better understanding how they think about, interpret and express pain. The ACHH Initiative is part of the Chronic Pain SPOR Network co-led by Sharon Rudderham, Eskasoni First Nation Health Director and Margot Latimer, Professor, Dalhousie University & Nurse Scientist, IWK Health Centre. Our team is made up of community members/leaders, health directors, artists and researchers and we strive for true community engagement applying the OCAP principles in all levels of our research.
To date, the ACHH team has gathered knowledge from several First Nation communities across the Mi’kmaki & Wolastoqey regions using 3 main methods, 1) Art Sessions, 2) Sharing Circles, and 3) Healthcare Utilization Data.
Through these methods, we have found that Indigenous children & youth:
- have high rates of all types of pain that impact their normal growth and development
- are often quiet about their pain and hurt
- may not express pain and hurt in the way health professionals are trained to assess it
- conceptualize pain as physical, mental, emotional and spiritual
- have high rates of physical pain but low rates of specialist referrals for chronic ear pain
- have low rates of mental health diagnoses yet describe emotional pain as their common experience
Our work has allowed us to produce meaningful, community focused deliverables such as curriculum that is offered to university and clinical settings, practice guidelines for clinicians, creation of a Kids Hurt App, travelling art exhibition, training and mentorship for Indigenous young people and building partnerships to enhance community services. With the information gathered, the ACHH Initiative is addressing the Truth and Reconciliation Calls (TRC) to Action by creating mechanisms to help support Indigenous children and youth in the healthcare setting.
Through continued support from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Chronic Pain Network, the IWK Health Centre and financial donations, the ACHH Initiative is expanding to additional communities across Canada and into the United States. Through this process we will build our understanding of the unique pain experience of Indigenous children and youth and further develop knowledge translation tools to support health clinicians in creating a better health experience for Indigenous children.
For more details on the ACHH Initiative’s work please visit: www.achh.ca