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"Masters of Our Own Health" conference in Chisasibi provides tips on how to achieve a better health

February 08, 2017

On January 31-February 2, 2017, Chisasibi held a three day health event called "Masters of Our Own Health". The aim was to inform the Chisasibi community on various health topics. It gave people the opportunity to learn about the different local resources and initiatives available to improve their health.

Among many strong moments was a powerful talk by Wally Rabbistkin. He first made the participants move and stretch so they felt good and very alert. He said that life is a journey that never ends and that there will always be obstacles that people need to be ready to deal with.

Other speeches were greatly appreciated. Roy Neaccapo’s testimony was about diabetes and lifestyle changes he made. He said that it was time to change mentalities and not judge people just because they walk. The statement that "If you walk it is because you are sick" is not correct. Maybe a person wants to prevent disease, feel good, or just be outside. So walking is something really positive.

There was also Nelson Pashagumeskum's testimony. Doctors told him when he was a child that he would be diabetic by the age of 22 because of his obesity. He proved the contrary. At 24 years of age he is a trainer, he exercises and he is healthy.

Dr. Darlene's Kitty presentation emphasized on the importance of access to healthy foods and increasing community resources for being more active. During her speech she said "Our families were lean and healthy, thriving in our culture. We were fit and strong as we had to walk, hunt, fish, chop wood and ate foods much lower in sugar and starches. Given our health and social problems today, we should go back to our culture and traditions, become more active and eat healthier."

Some new health ideas also emerged during this event such as "sitting is the new smoking" and "each person can be the master of its own health".

The MAPAQ training that tackled food safety handling was a great addition to this conference.  It is important to train people to handle food carefully in order to avoid food poisoning.

Booths set up in the Mitchuap around the fireplace were also quite successful. Many people came to chat with the Community Health Reprentatives who were giving information about the sugar content in different foods and diabetes screening. Also very popular was the booth by agronomist Michel Gendreau on how to grow herbs and sprouts right at home. As usual, the knowledge and wisdom of Cree elders who demonstrated the art of making traditional crafts attracted a large crowd.

This conference reached a maximum of people by employing various measures. Some include:

- Using a central location where booths, presentations and the feast could be held
- Flexible scheduling: 1PM to 9PM allowed people of all ages to be present.
- Amplifying information via social media.
- The High School Director allowed students to come with their teachers in the afternoon
- Transmitting the conference via the local radio
- All presentations were translated in Cree
- Booths had practical activities such as diabetes screening done by Chayo Ccommunity Health Representatives.
- Resources/materials handouts
- Broad array of subjects to interest a maximum of people
- Different themes of interest on each day (Cree Nation of Chisasibi, Cree Health Board, Culture and Heritage)

The organizers of "Masters of Our Own Health" received over 50 suggestions from the participants. After reading them all, the organizers of the event will meet and talk about what else could be done to improve health ressources for the community.

Rough statistics on the attendance:

Day 1: booth + conference = 150 participants ( + 52 participants attended the MAPAQ workshop)
Day 2: : booths + conferences = 150 participants ( + 52 participants attended the MAPAQ workshop)
Day 3: booths and conferences = 230 people attended
Feast on day 3: eighty people attended and fifty people stayed for the dance. The meal was white fish and berries, goose, ptarmigan, beaver, bannock. Ten physicians attended and two new permanent pharmacists were introduced.

In his closing, Clarence Snowboy, Local Director of the Chisasibi Miyupimaatsiiuun Centre (CMC) of the Cree Health Board, added "This health event brought people together to talk about ways to be more healthy!  Chisasibi people have seen many changes, famines, epidemics or diseases, residential school experience, river diversions into our river, mixing of water. Also diabetes and other chronic diseases, but we are strong people.  We are still here and we will fight  diabetes and we will beat it! We just need to empower our people with the knowledge of what diabetes is. We believe our people will move forward into the right direction towards better healthy lifestyle. That is why we cannot stop now, we must continue."

Link to photo album of the event: https://www.flickr.com/photos/creepublichealth/albums/72157676513978903/with/32372119480