A renewed commitment by Interior Health to health services for the Ktunaxa First Nation was made during the Ktunaxa First Nation’s annual general assembly in Creston on Thursday, July 26. A letter of understanding (LOU) was re-signed between Interior Health Board Chair Norman Embree and Ktunaxa Nation Chair Kathryn Teneese, reinforcing the positive relationship established between the two parties in 2009 when a commitment to improving the health of all Aboriginal peoples in the East Kootenay was first made.

“The long term health of the Aboriginal population within the Ktunaxa’s Traditional Territory is a priority,” said Ktunaxa Nation Chair Kathryn Teneese in a press release. “By working with Interior Health, we are increasing the understanding of health and cultural needs and how best to meet them either in a clinical or community environment.”

As a result of the 2009 agreement, a host of initiatives are currently underway that specifically address Aboriginal health concerns, including designated staff at Interior Health facilities who work with and support Aboriginal patients, the creation and implementation of programs that combine traditional practices with clinical methods, and physician and nurse visits to reserves to allow Ktunaxa people to receive health care services in a culturally appropriate and sensitive manner.

“Agreements, like the Letter of Understanding with the Ktunaxa Nation, are important for Interior Health,” said IH Board Chair Norman Embree in the release. “By continuing to work collaboratively with the Ktunaxa, and other First Nations and Aboriginal groups, we are increasing our ability to meet health needs, improve access and increase Aboriginal involvement in health service decisions.”

This new Letter of Understanding is scheduled for review every five years, and encompasses health services for all Aboriginal peoples, including Métis and Inuit, who live within the Ktunaxa traditional territory, stated the release.