Revitalizing Culture and Healing: Indigenous Approaches to FASD Prevention is a new resource developed by program providers and experts in Indigenous women’s health and researchers from the Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health, in partnership with the First Nations Health Authority in BC. The resource includes a beautiful and thoughtful introduction by Marilyn Van Bibber and highlights seven community led and culture driven programs. Each program successfully integrates culture, language, and healing into their program in order to improve the health and wellness of women, children, their families, and their communities. Marilyn is well known for her development of the first resource on Indigenous approaches to FASD prevention in Canada, entitled It Takes a Community published in 1996.
The programs highlighted in this resource use the traditional holistic view of health and wellness that encourages balance between mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. They incorporate culture and language, coordinate basic needs, and address women, their families, and their communities’ unique and complex needs by promoting healing through language, ceremony, traditional knowledge, land-based programming, involvement of Elders, and more.
The driving principles that contribute to the success of these programs is that they are community led, culture driven, strengths-based, and provide wraparound support that address broad social and structural factors that impact individuals’ and their families’ lives across the lifespan.
Program planners and service providers can learn from the lessons shared from these programs and integrate the following 4 considerations that support healthy beginnings:
- Use Non-Stigmatizing Language
Service providers and healthcare professionals should use strengths based language that promotes wellbeing, creates safe spaces for women and girls to discuss their substance use, and helps women and girls build confidence and ask for support. Providers should shift towards using person-first language in their practices, where clients are identified as a person rather than by their health condition or behaviours. Some examples my include shifting from language “addicts” to “women who use alcohol” and from “she admitted to drinking alcohol during pregnancy” to “she reported drinking during pregnancy.”
For more information on the strengths-based language, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction and Canada FASD Research Network have released language guides to support the use of non-stigmatizing language when discussing substance use and FASD.
- Identify Existing Community Strengths and Programming
Meeting with existing services to see how they are, or could be, a part of wellness and FASD prevention initiatives is an important strategy in identifying community strengths and linkages that can better support healthy beginnings and healthy families. Identifying these strengths and linkages can better support current or existing program planners in developing a realistic goal for program delivery in your community.
- Connecting with those who have Walked the Path Before Us
The programs featured in this booklet enact approaches that have been successful at implementing community led, and culture based approaches to improving the health of women, their families, and their communities. The lessons and approaches in these programs demonstrate what decolonized approaches to FASD prevention can look like.
- Identifying Potential Funding Partners
Building relationships with potential funders is an important step towards developing or supporting community-based prevention programs. The breadth of these programs – in addressing a multitude of needs – demonstrate the varied funding that can support families. Given how the programs enact evidence informed and wise practices, it is important that stable and long term support is provided to ensure the programs’ ongoing responsivity and development.
For more information on the seven highlighted programs, four critical considerations, and to review the eight reflection questions on how to support healthy beginnings in your community, see the booklet, Revitalizing Culture and Healing: Indigenous Approaches to FASD Prevention.