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Agreement to share information leads to improved emergency response.

KEHEWIN FIRST NATION

A partnership between six Alberta First Nations, Alberta Health Services and Health Canada is focused on sharing information to improving access to health services in those communities.

Tribal Chief Ventures Inc., a collective of six First Nations, launched the unique initiative in 2009 with the objective of building partnerships, addressing jurisdictional issues and improving access to health services.

"We've been working on this initiative for about three or four years now," said David Scott, a representative of TCVI. "We wanted to have better connections for our health units. This involved developing links between our health units and the health authorities that govern each of the First Nations."

Kehewin, Frog Lake, Beaver Lake, Cold Lake, Whitefish Lake and Heart Lake First Nations are member nations of TCVI.

The purpose of the agreement is to share data obtained through professional land use mapping services. Through technology, like GPS, data such as land use information, topography and the demographics of a community can be obtained.

Without the agreement, demographic information, such as addresses, would normally not be shared beyond the First Nations because of privacy, said Rob Barone, director of contract operations for Alberta Health Services.

"This is privileged information that remains for the purpose of responding to an emergency," said Barone.

Access to the data will improve the delivery of health services, particularly emergency response like ambulance, fire and police. Kehewin Chief Ernest Gadwa pointed out that, in the past, residents often had to wave down emergency response vehicles from the road because their addresses were hard to find.

"A lot of First Nation lands are poorly mapped," said Barone, "whereas these are actual, clear, professional maps, done with GPS coordinates, that can lead an emergency response vehicle right to a scene, which saves a lot of time and can make a difference in an emergency or patient outcome."

The data is also of interest to Health Canada as the data can identify the location of water sources and potentially contaminated water sources. This data could improve the ability to respond to health concerns that relate to the environment, such as boil water advisories.

"This agreement is a powerful tool and many positive things will come out of this," said Gadwa.

Already, information sharing has had many positive and, in some cases, unexpected results. Recently, local RCMP accessed Kehewin's mapping data to search for a missing person.

These benefits have prompted Kehewin to take their mapping efforts a step further. The First Nation is currently mapping fence lines and property lines in an effort to create a comprehensive 3D map of the land.

"I'm hoping that other nations get onside with this effort and start using it as a template," said Gadwa. "Signing the agreement was a big step and now, the ball is rolling."

BY MICHELLE WILLCOTT

Sweetgrass Writer

COPYRIGHT 2010 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
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Author:Willcott, Michelle
Publication:Alberta Sweetgrass
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Dec 1, 2010
Words:471
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