Popular First Nations cancer care course expanding to all provinces

Course developed with and for health-care providers working in First Nations communities

Woman at computer participating in the @YourSide Colleague® Cancer Care courseAn innovative web-based professional development course is broadening its reach following a successful 2009 launch in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. @YourSide Colleague® Cancer Care course, a joint initiative of Saint Elizabeth and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, is now offered in Alberta and Ontario and will be available in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces by March 31, 2012. The course provides cancer care knowledge to health-care providers working in First Nations communities that face barriers such as distance, severe weather and staff shortages when seeking access to information about prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, palliative and end-of-life care.

“This innovative course is providing much needed cancer training to help Canada’s many dedicated health-care providers better serve and work with First Nations communities,” says the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, federal Minister of Health. “Its expansion to all provinces demonstrates how partners can come together and harness successes to benefit even more First Nations communities. Collaboration to address common health and cancer goals is very much in the spirit of why our government created the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer.”

To date, the @YourSide Colleague® Cancer Care course is providing professional development to more than 280 First Nations communities and organizations and almost 1,000 health-care providers in Canada. With expansion to all provinces, it is expected to reach more than 600 First Nations communities and organizations and between 3,000 and 5,000 providers. The course is designed to enhance the quality of care at a local level and reduce the sense of isolation health-care providers may experience in rural, remote and isolated communities.

“We welcome the expansion of this important initiative providing cancer care knowledge to health-care providers in First Nations communities across all regions,” says National chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations which is hosting a national health forum in Ottawa this week. “This emphasis on providing a culturally-appropriate curriculum will help to better ensure health-care providers in First Nations communities have the resources they need to provide care to our citizens.”

With support from the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer through funding from Health Canada, and developed with and for health-care providers working in First Nations communities, Saint Elizabeth created the course to combine evidence, innovative technology and culturally appropriate and contextually relevant material, while addressing an important need within the health system. Among First Nations communities, cancer incidence is increasing at a more rapid rate as compared to the overall Canadian population1 and cancers tend to be discovered at later stages.2 3 4

This course has a significant focus on prevention (including diseases such as diabetes, heart and lung disease that may share risk factors with cancer), health promotion, screening and detection. It offers around-the-clock access to a virtual support network of experts and peers, and opportunities to participate in communities of learning as well as scheduled learning events. Providers can navigate through cancer topics at their own pace without having to leave their communities.

“The Partnership is focused on working with and for First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities to address the growing burden of cancer and we are pleased to partner with Saint Elizabeth on this important initiative. The dedication and focus of everyone involved in the @YourSide Cancer Care course is inspiring and an important example of what we can achieve by working in collaboration,” says Jessica Hill, CEO, Canadian Partnership Against Cancer.

The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, through Health Canada, invested $560,000 for the launch, development and initial maintenance of the Cancer Care course in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It is investing just under $1 million to expand the Cancer Care course to all other provinces by March 31, 2012.

The Cancer Care course is one of the 10 web-based courses that the Saint Elizabeth First Nations, Inuit and Métis Program provides at no charge to First Nations communities. At the onset, Saint Elizabeth invested $2 million to launch the web-based learning program, and the organization’s commitment continues. Saint Elizabeth and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer are also exploring the course’s potential adaptation for other communities as well as Canada’s north.

“For more than 10 years, Saint Elizabeth has been committed to working in partnership with First Nations communities and organizations, through our charitable Foundation and fundraising initiatives, to support health care capacity at the local level,” says Shirlee Sharkey, president and chief executive officer at Saint Elizabeth. “It has been wonderful to see the cancer course expand across Canada and its impact grow. We thank the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and our First Nations partner organizations for the critical role they have played to make this happen.”

The Assembly of First Nations National Health Forum taking place at the Ottawa Convention Centre November 7-9, 2011 is the first of its kind in over 10 years, gathering nearly 1000 First Nations health directors, health technicians and health experts from across Canada. Under the theme “Taking Action to Move Forward”, the three-day forum will showcase examples of First Nations driving change and engaging partnerships, while exploring opportunities to advance community-based plans for sustainable health service delivery.

About the Assembly of First Nations

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. For more information on the AFN, please visit www.afn.ca. Follow AFN and National Chief Atleo on Twitter @AFN_Updates, @AFN_Comms and @NCAtleo.

About the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer

The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer is an organization funded by the federal government to accelerate action on cancer control for all Canadians. It is bringing together cancer survivors, patients and families, cancer experts and government representatives to implement the first pan-Canadian cancer control strategy. The Partnership’s vision is to be a driving force to achieve a focused approach that will help prevent cancer, enhance the quality of life of those affected by cancer, lessen the likelihood of dying from cancer, and increase the efficiency of cancer control in Canada. Being culturally responsive to the needs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples is an important priority within this work. For more information about the work of the Partnership, visit www.partnershipagainstcancer.ca. The Partnership is also the driving force behind cancerview.ca, an online community linking Canadians to cancer information, services and resources.

About Saint Elizabeth

Saint Elizabeth has been a trusted name in Canadian health care for more than a century and is a leader in responding to client, family and system needs. As an award-winning not-for-profit and charitable organization, Saint Elizabeth is known for its track record of social innovation and breakthrough clinical practices. Our team of almost 6,000 nurses, rehab therapists, personal support workers and crisis intervention staff deliver nearly five million healthcare visits annually. For more information on the Saint Elizabeth First Nations, Inuit and Métis Program please visit www.atyourside.ca.


1 Cancer Care Manitoba; “Aboriginal Cancer Care Progress Report”, 2008

2 Marrett, L and Chaudry, M. “Cancer incidence and mortality in Ontario First Nations, 1968 – 1991 (Canada).” Cancer Causes and Control, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 259 – 268, 2003.

3 Alvi, RA. “Breast, Cervical and Colorectal Cancer Survival Rates for Northern Saskatchewan Residents and First Nations.” Thesis (M.Sc.). University of Saskatchewan, 1999.

4 Sheppard AJ, Chiarelli AM, Marrett LD, Mirea L, Nishri ED, Trudeau ME; Aboriginal Breast Cancer Study Group. “Detection of later stage breast cancer in First Nations women in Ontario, Canada.” Can J Public Health. 2010 Jan-Feb;101(1):101-5.