The Aboriginal Cultural Safety Initiative: An innovative health sciences curriculum in Ontario colleges and universities
Objectives: The Aboriginal Cultural Safety Initiative (ACSI) created at Anishnawbe Health Toronto offers an innovative curriculum to address gaps in postsecondary health sciences curricula in this area for future healthcare providers. Participants: Evaluations were collected from 1,275 students in health sciences programs in colleges and universities in Ontario. Setting: Trained volunteer Aboriginal instructors were invited as guest speakers to college and university classes in various health science disciplines. Intervention: Our instructors offered a 2- to 3-hour teaching session to health sciences students that included 3 modules on the health of Aboriginal peoples: (a) The impact of colonial and postcolonial policies on social determinants of health, (b) Contemporary health determinants and health outcomes, and (c) Aboriginal concepts of health and healing practices. Outcomes: The ACSI was able to impart the intended learning objectives to a wide array of students across health sciences disciplines, as demonstrated in the student evaluations. A significant number of students reported that their knowledge of, and interest in, Aboriginal health increased substantially when compared to their prior knowledge and interest. Conclusion: The success of this program suggests that, in the absence of Aboriginal faculty members in postsecondary health sciences departments, a committed cadre of volunteer Aboriginal instructors can improve student knowledge around issues related to Aboriginal health and can influence student attitudes through the inclusion of personal experiences in the teaching session. A lack of availability in curriculum time continues to be the largest obstacle to including content on Aboriginal cultural safety in health sciences programs.