THUNDER BAY / SIOUX LOOKOUT – HEALTH – Six proud students were the first to complete the new Maternal-infant Support Worker (MiSW) program offered in Sioux Lookout. On April 5, they accepted their certificates at the Sioux Lookout Men Ya Win Health Centre.
The MiSW program is a certificate program is a collaboration between the Sioux Lookout Area Aboriginal Management Board, Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre, Confederation College and the Centre for Rural and Northern Health Research at Lakehead University. The aim of the program is to improve the care of mothers and infants living in remote First Nations by providing enhanced skills to community health representatives in those communities. The support and partnership of the community health centres have also been a vital piece of the program’s success.
Dolly Nymark from Mishkeegogamang First Nation was part of that inaugural class and she is looking forward to putting what she has learned into helping new mothers and their babies. “This program helps fill the gap in prenatal education in northern communities,” she said. “I especially want to help first-time moms learn about what to expect. I think this program is a great idea and I think every community should have a maternal-infant support worker to give help where it’s needed.”
The program prepares graduates to work with expectant mothers, their infants and their families with traditional and western teachings blended throughout. Maternal-infant Support Workers apply a holistic approach – which considers the mind, body and spirit – to assessing needs and a client-centred focus. As part of a healthcare team, they will incorporate Indigenous cultural beliefs, values and practices.
The key role of the Maternal-infant Support Worker is providing a focus on health promotion and illness prevention strategies and participating in community wellness programs. MiSW’s are able to provide a range of prenatal and postnatal resources in addition to supporting expecting mothers, fathers and extended family. The support worker will also perform home visits that allow for more effective communication strategies and problem-solving. Home visits allow the worker to engage with the extended family reflecting the cultural and multi-generational nature of many Indigenous families.
All organizations involved would like to congratulate the inaugural class of Summer Barkman, Kitchenumaykoosib Inniwug First Nation; Julie Kenequanash, Weagamow Lake First Nation; Priscilla King, Kingfisher Lake First Nation; Carmel Meekis, Sandy Lake First Nation; Dolly Nymark, Mishkeegogamang First Nation; and Edna Winter, Kingfisher Lake First Nation.
The next cohort of students has recently started training in Sioux Lookout and will begin working with mothers in their home communities in August 2019.