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Wellness & Health in Youth – Aboriginal Communities in Transition NOW

Adolescence is a very important stage in a person’s life. It is a time to grow physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. For this reason it is important to know what specific issues affect youths’ health and how these issues may affect well-being. Improving the health and well-being of Indigenous youth will lead to improved health for all Indigenous peoples and communities.

Through this project we are worked with Indigenous youth, Elders, and members of the community to create a program that will identify and prioritize topics on health and wellness. The program was developed for the youth, by the youth, and included stakeholders’ point of views. All members involved in the project had the opportunity to provide guidance and direction in identifying health and wellness concerns of Indigenous youth. Together with the youth, a culturally appropriate and relevant program was developed and addressed the identified concerns. The results of this program will continue to be utilized for the creation of new policies relating to Indigenous youths’ health, and will also be used to develop similar programs for the rest of Alberta as well as communities in the Northwest Territories.

Phase I

Duration: 3 years (2011-2014)


Alberta Health
Public Health Agency of Canada, Western Region

Purpose: Data Collection

Edmonton has the second highest urban Indigenous population in Canada and also a rapidly growing community of new Canadians. These populations are facing a unique set of challenges, particularly in combating chronic disease. The purpose of Why Act Now: Phase I was to investigate and interview all urban youth, not only Indigenous Youth and New Canadians, on issues of food access, nutrition status, physical health, and overall well-being. By collaborating with youth, education staff, Indigenous elders, and community supports, this investigation revealed the needs of our urban youth and gave direction to implement an action plan to combat the risk of chronic disease, in particular diabetes.

Phase II

Duration: 3 years (2014-2017)


Alberta Health
Alberta Diabetes Institute

Alberta Diabetes Foundation
Department of Health and Social Services, Government of Northwest Territories
Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation

Purpose: Program Development, Implementation and Evaluation

The Indigenous and Global Health Research Group at the University of Alberta, led the development and implementation of Why Act Now: Phase II – the first program of its kind in Canada geared to improve the quality of life for Indigenous youth between the ages of 13-18. Data collected in Phase I revealed and confirmed that Indigenous youth and families face different barriers to achieving good health than other Canadians due to their social, economic and environmental circumstances and therefore are at a particular risk of poor health and nutritional status.

Dr. Sharma and team worked in partnership with Edmonton Catholic and Public schools to develop and pilot a culturally-appropriate intervention program to improve the nutrition and physical activity status of urban Indigenous youth in Grades 7-12. The team will develop presentations, handouts, recipes and other interactive activities and utilize social media to promote key messages and engage youth. The program was refined and designed for the youth by the youth through open feedback and discussion. Upon completion, all program information, educational materials and a manual of program implementation steps have been made available free of charge in a downloadable format on our website so that it can be shared with other schools and communities in Alberta as well as in the Northwest Territories.

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