Health staff from First Nations communities in the Cariboo Chilcotin have completed a basic training course to help educate community members about hepatitis C.
Last Friday the staff, elders, doctors and presenters gathered for a workshop about the course at the Ramada Inn Convention Centre.
“They’ve gone through the course to raise the general awareness level of Hep C knowledge,” said Dr. Alexandra King who travels to Williams Lake regularly to see hepatitis C patients at a hepatitis C clinic she set up in April 2015 in co-operation with Dr. Jolien Steyl at the Atwood Clinic.
“They are hopefully going to start increasing the testing, awareness and prevention,” King said, noting that combination will hopefully mean less hepatitis C cases.
And for people who have hepatitis C, they will have a better chance of being diagnosed, referred and treated, King added.
“There are a few other communities in Canada that are doing the training, but Williams Lake is at the forefront,” King said. “It’s really quite innovative.”
King credited Lori Sellars, the executive director at Three Corners Health Society in Williams Lake, for initiating the course.
“Lori went to the health directors in each community and they made the decision this was important to them,” King said.
Sellars first became involved with HIV Aids work when she had a contract with the First Nations Inuit Health Branch several years ago.
“I saw the need for HIV Aids and communicable disease education, and realized Hep C was a key area,” Sellars said. “There’s a stigma attached to those diseases and the challenges for First Nations are huge.”
The course is a part of a three-pronged approach, Sellars noted.
“It’s about our clients, teaching our staff that work with our clients, and how our organization’s policies and processes support our clients and their needs.”
Training for the course was provided by CATIE, Canada’s source for HIV and hepatitis C information.
“This is a national organization providing top quality education,” King said of CATIE.
Sellars said the invite to take the course went out to all Tsilhqot’in, Shuswap and Carrier communities.
“We are hoping to do the course again in the fall so we can get more people in our communities trained in Hep C,” Sellars said.