Defining social wellness

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How Crees define social wellness is going to be a topic of discussion for many months to come in the Cree nation, starting this November.

Mandy Gull, a programming and research officer for the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay (CBHSSJB), said essentially they are looking to develop a Cree perspective-based social wellness policy for the Cree nation. Though led by the Cree health board, the project is both collaborative and inclusive and the main partners will include the Cree School Board, CREECO, the Cree Nation Youth Council, Cree Regional Elders Council and the Grand Council.

“Our vision statement says that Cree Social Wellness policy will be a regional policy to be adapted by each of the six entities that are involved. What we are trying to do is develop a long-term health plan based on each of the aspects of social wellness – emotional, physical, mental, spiritual and economic,” said Gull.

Gull explained that this process will involve all of the aspects of an individual and how each of these aspects work together to contribute to the overall development of social wellness.

To start this process, Gull will be meeting with groups of six to ten individuals from each of the six above-mentioned entities on November 3-5 in Mistissini for a by-invitation “focus group style session” to get a feel for what each entity’s mandate is in terms of social wellness. They will also be exploring what kind of work they are doing, what their position is on social wellness, and whether they have any solutions or ideas concerning social wellness.

The idea will also be to get these groups to work on establishing some kind of preliminary data on what social wellness means to them, how their entity contributes in areas of social wellness and get some of what their projected ideas are on social wellness and what their roles should be in working with Gull on the project.

“This is historic because it’s going to be the first time we will have all of the entities come together and work at providing the Cree perspective on how we are going to be conducting the research for this policy,” said Gull.

The November meeting will be geared entirely towards the participating entities but Gull explained that in the future there will be many more consultations done with selected representatives from religious groups, women’s groups, hunting groups and community groups.

“We want to go into the community and have the community members address what social wellness means to them as individuals, what it means for their families and more importantly what it means for their community. We want to be community-specific and address the needs of each community and then from there merge our findings and do more in-depth research into how we are addressing social wellness now based on the programs and services that are in place,” said Gull.

One of the main goals of the consultations is to have everyone understand what social wellness is and how it pertains to individuals in terms of their self, the way they conduct their lives and raise their families. In doing so, Crees will be able to know whether what they are adopting in terms of social policy is in line with Cree culture, Cree values, Cree language and Cree identity.

“This is to make people really ask themselves if what they are doing is based on who they want to be and if it represents who they are,” said Gull.

Gull hopes to start the consultations with the communities by late winter or early spring of 2011, begin the preliminary writing phase in 2012 and then have the final policy written by August 2013.

The CBHSSJB will be setting up a website for the Cree Social Policy consultations this November.


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