New Cree medical app teaches doctors and patients medical terms to communicate
The language app will help front-line workers and patients to communicate
The Cree Health Board in the James Bay region of Quebec has created the East Cree Medical App — a free Cree glossary and translation dictionary.
The hope is that the app will increase the use of the Cree language in medical treatments and bridge the linguistic gap which often exists between health professionals from the south and their Cree patients.
"This language app is going to be very helpful for people," said Bella M. Petawabano, the chairperson of the health board.
Petawabano said the app will help improve the "cultural safety" of patients.
"We often, as Cree, don't have the terms to express some of the effects of cancer. It's going to be very useful for the interpreters, translators or other people who escort patients," said Petawabano.
Petawabano said the app will also be useful for front-line workers such as doctors and nurses and make it easier for patients to understand what is happening to them and what to expect in terms of the effects of treatment.
'This is only the beginning'
For example,"tânith e âhkusiyan?" means "where does it hurt?" in East Cree southern coastal dialect.
Right now the the app contains words, terms and phrases used in treating cancer, but the health board has plans to expand it, said Petawabano.
"This is only the beginning," said Petawabano. "The app has the capacity to be able to integrate terminology for any other chronic diseases."
The app includes terms in three East Cree dialects — southern inland, southern coastal and northern.
The app was created by a group of organizations: the Cree Health Board, the federally-funded Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Carleton University and the federally-funded, arms length Canadian Partnership Against Cancer organization.
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Ceremony by Ann Marie Awashish's bedside
The official release of the app was moved up to last Friday, so the health board could also honour a person key to its development — Ann Marie Awashish.
Awashish taught herself the Cree language and has tirelessly worked for the Cree people and to promote the Cree culture.
"She never stopped caring," said Petawabano, who attended the ceremony held at Awashish's bedside in the palliative care unit at the Chibougamau Regional Hospital last Friday.
Awashish made Eeyou Istchee her adoptive home in the 1970s after marrying Philip Awashish, one of the original signatories of the James Bay and Northern Quebec agreement.
Cree Nation Grand Chief Abel Bosum, who was also at the ceremony, said Awashish was a key behind-the-scenes supporter of the Cree fight against Hydro Quebec in the 1970s, adding she and Philip were the first to inform the Cree leadership of government plans for the massive James Bay hydroelectric project planned for the Cree territory.
"Awashish is one of those extraordinary people who have served the Cree Nation going way back," said Bosum, adding he appreciated her role as the founder of the Chibougamau Eenou Friendship Centre.
The centre opened in the 1970s and worked to improve relations between the Cree people and the French-speaking majority at a time when relationships "were not very good," said Bosum.
Bosum said Awashish's work on the app is also an important step forward for the Cree Nation's efforts to strengthen the Cree language in the younger generation.
"All the [computer] games are in English and French and there is nothing in Cree," said Bosum.
"I think if we can develop some apps to pass on some history or legends or stories or even games that should attract young people."