First Nations Lung Health Project celebrates at Wanuskewin Park

July 3, 2017

There was symmetry in the closing symposium for the First Nations Lung Health Project at Wanuskewin Park.

SPHERU's Sylvia Abonyi and Kathleen McMullin emcee the closing symposium at Wanuskewin Park on June 13.
SPHERU's Sylvia Abonyi and Kathleen McMullin emcee the closing symposium at Wanuskewin Park on June 13.

“The opening for this whole project took place here at Wanuskewin Park, so the closing -- it’s fitting that we have it here as well,” Dr. Sylvia Abonyi said.

Researchers, project staff, community leaders, and stakeholders from across the country, gathered at Wanuskewin Park on June 13 to recap and summarize the results of the five-year long project and decide what to do with the information on local and policy levels.

“We’ve produced a lot of data in the project,” Dr. Abonyi said. “There are a lot more questions that we can answer that we haven’t already answered. We’d like to know what those (questions) are.”

The First Nations Lung Health Project explored health and living conditions of people in two First Nations communities. Two data collections were conducted over the years, looking at factors such as lung function, allergy tests, basic social determinants and housing conditions. The project also evaluated individual and contextual factors on the outcomes of asthma, chronic bronchitis, and other respiratory conditions.

Between the data collections, the team tried out interventions at the community level to make some changes.

Throughout the project, the research team worked closely with the communities to endure research was being done in a good way, Dr. Abonyi said.

The project launched two programs called the Green Tree Program and the Green Light Program. Through the Green Tree Program, school communities helped children connect the idea of a tree in nature as a symbol of a healthy respiratory system.

The Green Light Program is a community-chosen intervention that addresses non-traditional use of tobacco.

After four years, the number of individuals becoming free from non-traditional use of tobacco increased; the number of households free from non-traditional use of tobacco increased; and children were more knowledgeable of respiratory topics, including the respiratory system and how to keep lungs healthy.

During the closing symposium, Dr. Abonyi noted that the team and co-principal investigators want to get a sense of what sort of policy and other intervention programs should be considered as the project moves forward.

The symposium also served as an opportunity to consider what future studies that the two participating communities, and additional communities, would be interested in.

The project, also known as “Assess, Redress, Re-assess: Addressing disparities in respiratory health among First Nations People,” was led by Dr. Abonyi, Dr. James Dosman, Dr. Jo-Anne Episkenew, and Dr. Punam Pahwa.

The symposium finished with a memorial feast to honour and recognize the contributions co-principal investigator Dr. Jo-Ann Episkenew who passed away last year.


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