Project History

In 2008, Dr. Margot Latimer and Dr. Allen Finley of the IWK Health’s Complex Pain Team noticed something startling; only an estimated two out of 800 children referred to the Centre in its 17-year history were Indigenous. As a result, Dr. Latimer partnered with Sharon Rudderham, Eskasoni Health Centres Health Director, and a team of Indigenous community leaders, clinicians, Elders and researchers from IWK Health and Dalhousie University to further explore this low number. The Understanding Pediatric Pain in Aboriginal Communities (UnPPAC) project grew from this partnership and Mi’kmaq participants shared their pain and hurt stories through art and conversation sessions. Consistent stories of Mi’kmaq children’s stoicism were found as well as a link between pain and hurt expression, assessment, and treatment.

L-R: Dr. Margot Latimer, Dr. Allen Finley, Sharon Rudderham

The Issue

A child’s expression of pain is complex and related to social and cultural factors. The way Indigenous children’s pain is assessed and treated by non-Indigenous health care providers can be ineffective and have a range of negative effects. Under-treated pain can lead to learning disabilities, heightened medical fears, anxiety, chronic pain, impaired development, poor school outcomes and inadequate health care that can continue later in life.

What We’re Doing About It

Since completing the UnPPAC project we’ve continued exploring the experiences of pain and hurt for Indigenous children across Canada. In 2013 we received funds from several local and federal sources to expand our research to four communities across Mi’kma’ki and Wolastoqey territories – the ACHH Maritimes project. Further expansion took place in 2016 through a partnership with the CIHR Chronic Pain Network and SPOR funding. ACHH National was established.

Through each of these projects we continue to work on the development of tangible, research-based tools and products that will help address and improve the healthcare experiences of Indigenous children and youth such as the Kids Hurt App, the FIRST Approach and the Indigenous Health Research Advisory Committee (IHRAC). To learn about the origins and development of the FIRST Approach, you can access an article written by members of the ACHH Initiative Team here.

Surviving the Survivor [7.45 minutes]

In this award-winning piece for The National, former CBC reporter Wab Kinew shares his personal story of how residential schools affected three generations of his family including the impact on expression of emotions and pain.

Find Out More

Experience Indigenous children telling their stories in their own words.

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