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This article was published 12/2/2021 (505 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
An app created in Manitoba will help residents of remote Indigenous communities connect with local health officials, and each other, for health and wellness services.
The COVID-19 Indigenous app, developed by a team of researchers at the University of Manitoba, will allow community health directors to develop questionnaires and collect real-time responses to better understand residents' needs for their mental, spiritual, physical and emotional health.
"The app is geared to help health directors gauge the health and well-being of community members," said Evan Chamakese of Pelican Lake First Nation, in Saskatchewan, who is the digital health outreach co-ordinator for the app.
"In times of isolation where we’re not actually able to meet face-to-face, it provides that opportunity for front-line workers to meet with the members."
The app is intended to be customized by each community, and all data shared with local leaders will stay within the community unless express permission is granted to share it.
For remote communities with unreliable access to the internet, the team has developed a web app and a local area network that community health leaders can use to connect their devices.
Chamakese said the app is designed to give isolated communities a way to express their unique health needs to their leaders, and elders. The app includes a platform in which community members can share stories of hope and resilience with one another as they weather the pandemic.
"There’s been a huge shift in how we live our day-to-day lives, especially in Indigenous communities where we’re highly impacted by the pandemic. There’s been a shift towards technology and doing things online… this is another way to reach out to the community members," Chamaseke said.
"I feel there’s definitely a need to hear the concerns and issues people may be experiencing in these difficult times."
The app, which was developed as part of the wider Kitatipithitamak Mithwayawin research project for Indigenous-led health initiatives, will be launched on Feb. 18. Though it was designed for Canada's Indigenous communities, Chamaseke said it can be expanded to those in the United States and other countries.
Julia-Simone Rutgers is a climate reporter with a focus on environmental issues in Manitoba. Her position is part of a three-year partnership between the Winnipeg Free Press and The Narwhal, funded by the Winnipeg Foundation.