Our research focuses on evaluating the impact of the Blanket Program which was developed by the Cedar Project Partnership, an independent body of Indigenous Elders, Leaders and social service experts who govern all aspects of the study. This program provides participants with culturally-safe, strengths-based case management before, during, and after HCV treatment.

 
Patricia Spittal
Ottawa
Canada
UBC Public Scholars Award
 

Research Description

Colonization and colonial systems have led to the overrepresentation of Indigenous people impacted by substance use and hepatitis C (HCV) infection in Canada. Recent advances in direct-acting antiviral (DAA) therapies have vastly improved the effectiveness and tolerability of HCV treatment. However, systemic (e.g., racism) and social (e.g., homelessness) barriers to health care will likely hinder access to this life-saving treatment. The Cedar Project, a community-governed cohort study, is actively piloting an Indigenous-informed, culturally-safe case management approach, known as the Blanket Program, to facilitate HCV treatment among this community in Vancouver and Prince George, BC. The Blanket Program was developed by the Cedar Project Partnership, an independent body of Indigenous Elders, Leaders and social service experts who govern all aspects of the study. This program provides participants with culturally-safe, strengths-based case management before, during, and after HCV treatment. Our research focuses on evaluating the impact of the Blanket Program. We will use multiple methods to examine the feasibility and effectiveness of the Blanket Program on treatment adherence, HCV clearance, and wellness. Importantly, I will conduct in-depth interviews with Cedar participants and Cedar Case Managers to understand their experiences in the Blanket Program. Throughout this work, I will receive guidance from my mentor, an Indigenous scholar with expertise in social work and community-based research.

What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?

To me, a public scholar works to build partnerships between community and academia, to ensure research is driven by community interests. Like many, I see this work moving outside academia, directly involving non-profit and government sectors, helping conduct research to enhance evidence-based policies, programs, and practices.

In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?

The Public Scholars Initiative is transforming the PhD experience by supporting students to think critically and creatively of how their work can contribute to community. More importantly, this initiative offers a unique platform to bring together two teams of experts: researchers and community partners, with a common goal of contributing to the public good.

How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?

My PhD work provides unique learning opportunities with the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) and Cedar Project Partnership. Working with Indigenous health leaders and BCCDC HCV experts will deepen my learning in epidemiology, knowledge translation, and cultural safety and humility in health research.

How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?

To mobilize the impact of our research, we will use an integrated knowledge translation approach to examine the application of Cedar Project findings within health systems. This collaborative research model will bring together the BCCDC and Cedar Project Partnership to harmonize key research findings and health systems to inform culturally-safe HCV programming.

How do you hope your work can make a contribution to the “public good”?

Knowledge translation is the cornerstone of our applied research. Partnering with the BCCDC will advance the uptake of Cedar Project findings to address this organization’s vital impact goal: Identifying culturally-safe practices to enhance HCV care. Lessons from this work will also be shared with other provinces through networks such as the Canadian Hepatitis C Network, CATIE, and the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network. This project provides an important opportunity to align with Truth and Reconciliation calls to action by mobilizing Indigenous-informed research to guide policy and programming for Indigenous people living with HCV.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

For several years, I practiced as a mental health counselor in northern Canada. During this time, I had the privilege to work with Indigenous Nations, and to be mentored by community. However, the services we provided did not reflect communities’ needs and culture; as a system, we failed to listen. Through this experience, I became focused on pursuing a career in research, as my aspiration is to work in partnership with community to support community-driven health and wellness services

Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?

I decided on UBC because of what the School of Population and Public Health and Cedar Project had to offer: An outstanding training environment and an opportunity to learn from Indigenous scholars, Knowledge Keepers, and health/social service experts.

 

A public scholar works to build partnerships between community and academia, to ensure research is driven by community interests.