Researchers at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry are trying to reduce the gaps when it comes to health care for indigenous communities.

“A physician I work with says many of her indigenous clients say, ‘I’d rather die at home then go and get care from an environment where I don’t feel safe.’”

This is the reality says researcher Dr. Lloy Wylie when it comes to health care for indigenous patients.

She says lack of trust, understanding and stigma towards the culture are several reasons her team is working on a study to improve equity in the health care system.

“A lot of my family have struggled with addictions and mental health, so I’ve often seen the systemic barriers and racism that my family has faced,” says Stephanie McConkey, who’s a research assistant on the team.

She says her first-hand experiences are why she wanted to be part of the study.

“It’s also become very passionate for me to improve the quality of care, not just my family has faced, but also indigenous people in London and surrounding areas.”

The research group just recently received a funding grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to build on the health care improvement project

As part of the study, Wylie and her team will be working hand in hand with health care providers and indigenous communities in Thunder Bay in order to compare and analyze concerns and shortcomings when it comes to the health care system.

“We want to enhance those relationships to allow those better coordination of care to happen, better discharge planning and some respect for what the communities have to offer to their community members.”

The study is expected to take five years to complete.