New project aims to improve health and well-being in aboriginal students

The Aboriginal Students Health Project is a new pilot initiative targeting the aboriginal student population at York University. It is intended to improve the health and well-being of this population group using the peer health education model.

On Thursday, March 4, from 5 to 7pm, the Aboriginal Students Health Project will host an interactive diabetes education workshop for aboriginal students. The workshop will take place in the Stong Masters Dining Hall, 101 Stong College on the Keele campus. Student peer health educators Jamie Whitecrow and Mayumi Jones, both students from the University’s aboriginal community, will lead the workshop, which will focus on building awareness of the role of healthy lifestyle choices in preventing Type 2 diabetes.

Newly recruited to their roles as peer health educators, Whitecrow and Jones will serve as the primary contacts for aboriginal students interested in learning more about healthy lifestyles. The pair are part of a small team that has been engaging students and facilitating healthy lifestyle choices for the aboriginal student community by organizing events and workshops. The team has collaborated with culturally based healing and wellness organizations within the Greater Toronto Area to explore how traditional health matters can be made available to the aboriginal community. 

Thursday’s interactive diabetes workshop is part of Aboriginal Awareness Days and Powwow at York University, a three-day celebration taking place March 4 to 6 that will feature traditional singing and dancing, dramatic performances, workshops and film.  

The incidence of diabetes in Canada’s First Nations communities is growing at a rate that is three to five times higher than the national average with more than 20 per cent of the aboriginal population being diagnosed with diabetes. Those living with diabetes have higher rates of heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, amputations and infectious disease and the incidence in aboriginal youth is growing.

The project is a partnership between the Aboriginal Student Community and the Health Education & Promotion Service, both part of York University’s Centre for Student Community & Leadership Development. Funding for this project has been received from the federal government’s Community Investment Fund for the Toronto Urban Aboriginal Strategy.  

For more information on the Aboriginal Students Health Project, contact Anju Odam, coordinator, Health Education & Promotion, Centre for Student Community & Leadership Development, at ext. 55196.