Community Learning Centres: A Model of Community Engagement in Health, Education & Training

There are disproportionately high rates of poor health among First Nations populations in comparison to the general Canadian population. A contributing factor is the limited access many geographically-isolated rural and remote First Nations communities have to health information. Dr. Sandra Jarvis-Selinger is focusing on a new and innovative approach supporting community access to health information. This approach involves the formation of Community Learning Centres (CLCs) in four communities located in the Ktunaxa Nation in southeastern BC. A CLC is both a physical and a virtual space for community members to access Internet-linked computers and web-based resources developed according to community-defined health priorities. Health information is created by and for community members and is both accessed at and disseminated via CLCs through information and communication technologies. Community engagement is the cornerstone of this project, with due emphasis placed on community input and governance, local health priorities and inclusion of traditional medicine, language and knowledge. Dr. Jarvis-Selinger is conducting a program evaluation to determine the effectiveness and sustainability of the CLC design and implementation. The evaluation is being co-developed with each community in order to match the communities’ needs, workflow, schedule and style of participation. This research will increase our understanding of how to successfully and sustainably: 1) support community-university partnerships; 2) improve community wellness; 3) expand access to and awareness of community health resources; and 4) increase employment opportunities through technical, research and interpersonal skills training. Overall, this research promises to make a meaningful contribution to the domain of First Nations community health through the use of technology.