Anishnawbe Mushkiki empowers families to live a balanced, traditional lifestyle for optimal health and wellbeing.

While holistic approaches to health care are becoming a regular form of care across the healing community, Anishnawbe Mushkiki has been following this approach and counting for the last 20 years.

“We recognize the need to improve access to culturally safe and holistic care to meet the special needs of the indigenous peoples, and we strive to provide our Thunder Bay community members with equal access to quality health care,” says Jennifer Bean, Health Services Manager at Anishnawbe Mushkiki.

We’re celebrating 20 years of service

The indigenous population in Thunder Bay has grown over the past 20 years, as has the demand for services. Because of this growth, Anishnawbe Mushkiki has also grown by moving to a new place where they are better equipped to meet the needs of their patients.

“Everyone comes to us with a different state of health on their journey, and we’ve learned to meet people where they are on this continuum,” says Bean.

Your customers can have very complex needs and Mushkiki staff are listening and thoughtful, respecting culture and traditions in order to achieve their personal goals. Regardless of whether it is physical, mental, or a combination of both, Mushkiki has developed a holistic approach to safely meeting these needs and ensuring equal access to quality health care.

Growing through a global pandemic

Adaptation is a term not unfamiliar to Mushkiki staff, and 2020 was the definition for it.

To protect their patients, employees and their families from COVID-19, Mushkiki has limited the number of in-person appointments and has focused on virtual and phone appointments. Bean notes that this is challenging because not everyone has the necessary access to a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or reliable high-speed internet, creating a barrier for community members who may be unsafe or unable to afford technology.

“We’re doing our best to close this ‘digital divide’ and have been able to offer prepaid phones to some of our customers,” said Bean.

The programs department has also worked hard to provide food, winter clothing, physical activity equipment and books to approximately 60 customer families in need each week. As an organization dedicated to patient and family-centered care, COVID-19 has reminded employees of Mushkiki of the value in human connection.

“By making ‘wellness check’ calls to patients, we were able to strengthen this bond between us and build on the trust we have built over the past 20 years. We are very grateful for the ability of our employees and customers to adapt to the ever-changing face of the pandemic, ”said Bean.

Positivity is a rarity in these times, but Mushkiki believes it is this encouraging attitude that allows her to thrive through the ever-changing days of understanding this new normal.

More growth opportunities

When asked what is needed in the field of culturally and traditionally relevant health care, Bean notes that representation is required at all levels of staff, education and space, including access to health care.

Anishnawbe Mushkiki worked with Well Living House on a community-based research project, Our Health Counts Thunder Bay, which aims to assess and improve the health of urban indigenous people. Bean wants the results of this study to be used by governments, funding agencies, and other health care stakeholders to help plan the health needs of the growing indigenous community.

During COVID-19 and in the future with new and better opportunities for comprehensive health care, Anishnawbe Mushkiki is developing ways to improve access and provide quality health care and education to families and communities so that indigenous peoples can make health decisions about their health, to preserve their culture and to live a balanced, traditional way of life.

“We believe in patient first, exceptional care,” says Bean.

With an ever-growing clientele and a need to better understand what it means to take care of yourself, Mushkiki has created an environment that is culturally and traditionally relevant to those they serve.