Sudbury

New Canada Research Chair at Laurentian University to focus on Indigenous health

Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont. has appointed its first Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Health. Jennifer Walker will take on that role. She is a researcher who will study and collect information on the health of First Nation and Metis communities.
Jennifer Walker is the new Canada Research Chair of Indigenous health at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario. (supplied)

Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont., has appointed its first Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Health.

Jennifer Walker will take on that role. She is a researcher who will study and collect information on the health of First Nations and Metis communities.

Walker says it is important for people within Indigenous communities to study the data in a culturally appropriate way.

She says the aim is to steer away from negatively profiling First Nations communities, and to use the information to help improve health care in the future.

Data to help improve Indigenous health care in the future

"To be able to plan programs, to be able to advocate for health, people need information, baseline information. They need to know what's working, what's not. You can do that by looking at patterns of health and health care in data," says Walker.

She says many Indigenous communities find it difficult when trying to understand their own health situation.

Walker uses an example of a First Nations community that asked her to gather local diabetes data. She says the information they were looking for was spread throughout different sources.

"Part of what I do is helping to align the people who hold the data to be able to better enable access by First Nations communities," says Walker.

Walker says the gaps in specific health care data will translate into research projects with communities, to help fill those gaps.

Walker says she hopes to focus some of her work on the rising rates of dementia in Indigenous communities.

The federal government is funding about 200 different research chair positions across the country, including Walker's position at Laurentian.

During the news conference to announced Walker as the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Health, Laurentian University also announced its Maamwizing Indigenous Research Institute. It's meant to raise the profile of Indigenous research among collaborators and community partners.

With files from Marina von Stackelberg.

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