Two First Nations health liaison workers were hired in this 18-month pilot project to assist 250 people on and off-reserve in accessing appropriate health services from 44 relevant community agencies. The workers were part of a multidisciplinary team in the Battlefords Family Health Centre, a newly created primary health services demonstration site designed to emphasize community-based services and illness prevention. The study found that the health liaison workers were not clearly linked with any particular health service provider and were uncertain about lines of authority and accountability. Clients, however, responded positively in accessing primary health services; they had fewer missed appointments and experienced better follow-through in health care programs. The liaison workers, as paraprofessionals who could speak Cree (the predominant language) and who knew the community, were seen as advocates. The workers also helped service providers better understand the multifaceted nature of clients’ health needs, thus encouraging a more “holistic” approach to health.
This project was supported by the Health Transition Fund, which was created in 1997 to provide support for evidence-based decision-making in health care reform by supporting pilot and evaluation projects which test innovative approaches to health care delivery. The views expressed herein do no necessarily represent the official policy of federal, provincial, or territorial governments.