The Strengthening Families Maternal Child Health Program (SF-MCH) is a family focused home visiting program for pregnant women, fathers and families of infants and young children from 0-6 years of age. The program provides support to families in First Nation communities that builds on their strengths and addresses the family’s needs, questions and concerns.
The SF-MCH program also assists families to access other supports and health services. Effective programs enhance the physical, psychological, cognitive and social development of all family members. This program provides home visits to families by nurses and specially trained home visitors, provides referrals and access to other service supports and promotes coordination of services for children and families with complex needs.
The overarching vision of the SF-MCH program is that all First Nation communities in Manitoba have strong, healthy, supportive families to live holistic and balanced lifestyles. The program objectives are:
This program was a pilot project funded by the federal government in 2005 and was only available in 16 First Nation communities in Manitoba; 11 communities were funded in 2006 and another 5 were funded in 2007. In Manitoba, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and FNIH had agreed on a co-management structure with FNIH providing the administrative support and funding directly to the communities, and AMC providing the regional support to the pilot sites, with the First Nations Advisory Committee overseeing the overall implementation of the program. Three Regional positions supporting the SF-MCH program reside in the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Secretariat:
These three individuals provide professional nursing and program support to the 16 funded Maternal Child Health sites in Manitoba. Through the work of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the Maternal Child Health Program in Manitoba has been very successful in establishing a standardized program model which respects individual community cultural variation, establishing Program Standards, building strong partnerships with the University of Manitoba and our provincial counterparts, establishing Families First, developing a Quality Assurance process for the program.
Press Release: Harper Government’s Global Summit on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Fails to “save every women and child within arm’s reach” Within Our Own Country
May 28, 2014 – From May 28 to 30, 2014, Prime Minister Harper will host a Global Summit on maternal, newborn and child health in Toronto. With a focus on reducing the preventable deaths of newborns, women and children younger than the age of five in developing countries, the Summit will bring together global leaders and Canadian experts to galvanize support for the next phase of efforts and ensure that maternal, newborn and child health remains a global priority. The slogan on the Health Canada’s website boasts that their goal is “to save every women and child within arm’s reach”.
Harper Government’s Global Summit on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Fails to “save every women and child within arm’s reach” Within Our Own Country May 28, 2014 – From
May 28 to 30, 2014, Prime Minister Harper will host a Global Summit on maternal, newborn and child health in Toronto. With a focus on reducing the preventable deaths of newborns, women and children younger than the age of five in developing countries, the Summit will bring together global leaders and Canadian experts to galvanize support for the next phase of efforts and ensure that maternal, newborn and child health remains a global priority. The slogan on the Health Canada’s website boasts that their goal is “to save every women and child within arm’s reach”.
Yet, here in Canada, Maternal and Child Health concerns remain a huge concern within our First Nation communities in Manitoba. Consider that for every child less than one year that dies, 2-3 First Nation children continue die each and every year.
Infant Mortality rates for First Nation children have been a grave concern for many years, and many of the conditions that put children at risk are associated to poverty and the socio-economic conditions facing our young family’s on-reserve. Some of the factors that have put young families at risk are related to the harmful effects of residential school and child welfare policies. First Nation families have had to relearn many of the parenting and relationship building skills that allowed our families to thrive for generations.
The Strengthening Families Maternal Child Health Initiative in Manitoba is one such program that has been making a difference. The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs hosts the SF-MCH program and practice support team. The program and practice support team has not been able to obtain in invitation to the Harper Maternal and Child Health summit.
The Strengthening Families Maternal Child Health initiative is an intensive home visiting program offering support to young moms, dads and families and is one program that has actually come along to address the harm resulting from past government policies. Many families have been supported to make positive lifestyle changes and raise children in a nurturing way so that they are meeting or exceeding their developmental milestones. This has been reflected in positive program evaluations. The SF-MCH program has sponsored highly visible Infant Survival Campaign educating families on how to increase their child’s chance that they survive their first year of life, in their multimedia “Sacred Babies – Infant Survival Campaign.
The Strengthening Families Maternal Child Health program is only available in 14 Manitoba Communities, while the other 48 remain without a program. Efforts to advocate for the expansion of the program to all First Nations have been unsuccessful. This is only the Manitoba example, and more likely reflective of the other regions in Canada.
Government funding letters issued this year in Manitoba have indicated “This program is scheduled to sun-set/end of March 31, 2015”. (Excerpt from Health Canada funding letter, April 17, 2014). The program is up for renewal in 2015, as are other “Upstream Investment Initiatives”.
It appears that the Government is largely ignoring the need for Maternal Child Health resources in its own backyard. These babies and young mothers and families are well within the Harper government to save by way of renewing and expanding the program so that every First Nation family has access to similar supports that the Strengthening Families Maternal Child Health program offers.