Aboriginal Health Research in CIET
From its earliest years, CIET has worked with
indigenous communities, starting with Amuzgo and Mixteco populations in remote
villages of Guerrero state, in Mexico. Aboriginal health research has been an
essential part of our identity ever since. Currently, we help
communities in Mexico, Colombia and Canada as
they take on pressing health and development concerns, such as youth
resilience, safe motherhood, and HIV/AIDS, strive to preserve or reclaim their
cultural heritage, and struggle to overcome health inequalities resulting from
centuries of cultural and environmental marginalization.
Left, an Amuzgo researcher discusses findings from a CIET survey with traditional birth attendants in Tlacoachistlahuaca, Guerrero
State, Mexico in 2009. Right, Tlicho community-based researchers in North West Territories in 2008.
Our work in this field has some common features:
- Communities choose their research priorities
and own the research process – local people frame the issues and decide
how to participate.
- Our research focuses on community strengths -
including spirituality, oral traditions, identity, and support networks
- that allow them to protect themselves and their members, overcome
inequalities, and continue to develop.
- In prevention studies, we put the stress on
primary prevention, looking upstream for sources of individual and collective
resilience. We also focus on environmental health, since many Aboriginal health
problems are tied to changes in the environment.
- We are as keen on collective dimensions of
health challenges as we are on individual behavioural change.
- We do not conclude our research with lists of
recommendations. We try to give scientific support to communities as they seek
their own solutions, based on their own priorities.
- We build community capacities for research
and planning through participation.
- We search for evidence in support of traditional
healing practices and the role of medicinal plants in community health.
- We seek to harmonize traditional knowledge
and modern scientific practices, without marginalizing and destroying
indigenous cultures. (For more information see Cultural
For more on CIET's work on Aboriginal health research, see our Aboriginal health slideshow.