St. Paul's Hospital now has a research chair dedicated exclusively to the heart health of B.C.'s Aboriginal population.

"Heart health is what I would characterize as a growing crisis," said Dr. Jeff Reading, now the First Nations Health Authority chair in heart health and wellness at St. Paul's, and himself a member of the Mohawk nation from Ontario.

B.C.'s indigenous population has higher occurrences of uncontrolled blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol, he said.

Dr. Jeff Reading

Dr. Jeff Reading is the First Nation Health Authority's inaugural chair of heart health and wellness at St. Paul's Hospital. (

Reading's research — in partnership with Simon Fraser University's faculty of health sciences — will focus on ways to reduce cases of hypertension, heart attack, stroke and diabetes.

"We believe Dr. Reading is the perfect candidate to bring a distinct First Nations perspective to the clinical, academic and social determinants at work in this area," said CEO of the First Nations Health Authority Joe Gallagher in a statement. 

Treating the root of the issue

Reading will focus on the root causes of poor health outcomes for First Nations.

"The multigenerational traumas of residential schools experience and the whole impact of colonization has put many indigenous people in the social circumstances of poverty, and poverty determines health across a range of health indicators," Reading said.

"To address the issue, there's the health services issues, access to care etcetera, and the preventative measures, but there's also the end of poverty, the idea that vulnerable children are being exposed to social circumstances that predict chronic illness."

The provincial government says Reading's research will help shape health care planning.

"This research will inform and guide how health care is provided for First Nations, promoting better health outcomes," said B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake in a statement.

"We must learn from each other, and by supporting research into heart health for First Nations, we're breaking ground on a new era of personalized health care," Lake's statement said.