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First Response Addressing Health Emergencies in Remote Aboriginal Community

Posted on October 3, 2012
Counter to a tide of reports on health crises in remote First Nations communities, one isolated Ontario community is partnering with Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) researchers to develop the skills and resilience to manage health emergencies locally.
“Members of the Sachigo Lake First Nation are gaining skills that are usually only made available only to paramedic professionals. Call 911 in Sachigo Lake and you get a busy signal, no sirens and no paramedics,” says Dr. Aaron Orkin, a NOSM researcher who led the project with Dr. David VanderBurgh. “In an emergency, survival in Sachigo Lake depends on laypeoples’ skills and resilience.”
Orkin and VanderBurgh teamed up with Sachigo Lake leadership to address this critical issue.  Their journal article, entitled “Where There Is No Paramedic: The Sachigo Lake Wilderness Emergency Response Education Initiative,” is published today in the international open-access medical journal PLOS Medicine ( ). The paper highlights the unique circumstances of emergency first response in isolated Aboriginal communities, showcases the Sachigo Lake program’s findings, and advances a unique approach to addressing emergency situations.
 “I believe that this local training is part of the answer we have been looking for,” says Jackson Beardy, Sachigo Lake Health Director. “How many medical professionals are going to come and teach us?  It would be great to see this program across all of our First Nations.”  Remote First Nations communities continue to face a variety of health crises, from drug abuse and mental health emergencies to plane crashes and elevated rates of diabetes.
The research group, including students from the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, will present their findings at NOSM’s upcoming joint world conference, Rendez-Vous 2012 in Thunder Bay on October 9-14, 2012.  “Our research team is grateful for this opportunity to discuss this collaboration,” explained VanderBurgh. “Millions of people worldwide live in settings without paramedics or pre-hospital health care, and this model may be applicable elsewhere.”
For more information and to review the article in PLOS Medicine, please visit 2Fjournal.pmed.1001322