The Indigenous Youth Mentorship Program (IYMP) is a peer-led health promotion program developed for elementary school students in Indigenous school communities in Canada. A local young adult health leader (YAHL) and high school mentors offer students healthy snacks, physical activity games, relationship building activities and cultural teachings. IYMP aims to improve children's health and wellbeing and empower Indigenous youth and communities. The purpose of this focused ethnography was to describe the key characteristics of successful IYMP delivery. Two focus groups were conducted with 16 participants (8 YAHLS and 8 youth mentors) from 7 schools followed by 4 individual interviews (3 YAHLs, 1 youth peer mentor). Transcripts were analyzed using content analysis. Findings were triangulated with IYMP program field observations and notes from IYMP national team meetings. The five characteristics identified as important for IYMP delivery were a sense of ownership by those delivering the program, inclusion of Indigenous Elders/knowledge keepers, establishing trusting relationships, open communication among all stakeholder groups, including community and academic partners, and adequate program supports in the form of program funding, manuals that described program activities, and local and national gatherings between academic and community partners for sharing ideas about the program and its components. This study indicates the importance of respectful partnerships between community and academic leads for program success and sustainability. As IYMP is implemented in more communities and becomes community autonomous, program sustainability may be ensured and implementation challenges mitigated by embedding the identified five essential characteristics within the fabric of IYMP.
Keywords: aboriginal health; health promoting schools; implementation science, qualitative methods; indigenous; peers.
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