In search of a healing place: Aboriginal women in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside

Soc Sci Med. 2003 Feb;56(4):821-33. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(02)00081-3.


Research on general health service delivery in urban areas of Canada shows that Aboriginal people face formidable barriers in accessing culturally appropriate and timely care. Over the past decade, Urban Aboriginal Health Centres (UAHCs) have emerged to address the unmet health concerns of Aboriginal people living in metropolitan areas of the country. The purpose of this research was to address the gap in social science literature on how the health care concerns of Aboriginal women are being met by UAHCs. The research aimed to give voice to Aboriginal women by asking them whether the appropriate professional services and educational programs they need to address their health care needs were being provided in the inner city. A case-study approach was used whereby three separate focus groups were conducted with Aboriginal women who were clients of the Vancouver Native Health Society (VNHS), its sister organization, Sheway, or residents of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (DTES). In addition, twenty-five semi-structured interviews were conducted with VNHS staff, health providers, government representatives, and community leaders in health care (total n=61). The findings indicate that despite efforts from various quarters to articulate the health and social concerns of the country's marginalized populations, such has not been the case for Aboriginal women living in one of Canada's most prosperous cities. Many Aboriginal women expressed a strong desire for a Healing Place, based on a model of care where their health concerns are addressed in an integrated manner, where they are respected and given the opportunity to shape and influence decision-making about services that impact their own healing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • American Indian or Alaska Native / psychology*
  • British Columbia
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Health Services, Indigenous / standards*
  • Holistic Health
  • Humans
  • Maternal Health Services / standards*
  • Organizational Case Studies
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Urban Health Services / standards*
  • Vulnerable Populations / ethnology*
  • Women's Health*