Health Actions

For more information on Maternal and Child Health, please contact: Please refer to our Health Actions team
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Maternal and Child Health


Childhood Health and Wellness Resource Booklets
Tripartite Aboriginal Doula Initiative DVD
Your child’s hearing
Family Path pamphlet
Maternal Child Dental Health
Resources for childhood oral health
Celebrating The Circle Of Life: Coming Back To Balance And Harmony Guide
Safe Sleep Cards & Guide

New Safe Infant Sleep Toolkit Available - Honouring Our Babies: Safe Sleep Cards & Guide


Many First Nations and Aboriginal teachings explain that babies are gifts of life from the Creator. Sadly, sometimes babies leave the circle suddenly and far too early as a result of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is the death of a baby under one year of age which is sudden, unexpected, and without a clear cause. SIDS usually happens during sleep or napping and is the most common cause of death in babies between the ages of one month and one year.

Research shows that in BC, First Nations and Aboriginal babies are four times more likely to die from SIDS than other babies in BC. Although the exact cause or causes of SIDS are not known, there are clear safe sleep practices that reduce a baby’s risk for SIDS. 

We are pleased to announce the availability of a new education toolkit, Honouring our Babies: Safe Sleep Cards & Guide. This new resource will help service providers discuss safe sleep practices with First Nations and Aboriginal families and help reduce the risk of SIDS.

Honouring Our Babies: Safe Sleep Cards & Guide is interactive, evidence-informed, and incorporates cultural beliefs, practices, and issues specific to First Nations and Aboriginal communities. The tools include a deck of 21 discussion cards and seven illustrated cards that you can use to prompt and guide discussions with families about safe infant sleep as well as a facilitator’s guide with more information, research, resources, and graphics.

By sharing the key messages in these tools with families, you and your staff can play an important role to help families learn how to keep their precious babies safe while sleeping.

Download, print*, and share the resources:

Backgrounder PDF (165 kb)
Discussion Cards (original size) PDF (1.64 mb)
Discussion Cards (print size) PDF (966 kb)
Illustrated Cards (original size) PDF (4.34 mb)
Illustrated Cards (print size) PDF (7.67 mb)
Facilitator’s Guide PDF (2.10 mb)

*note: For printing, uncheck “fit” and use “shrink oversize pages” for optimal print results

The development of this new resource was an initiative of the Tripartite First Nations and Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health Committee, led by Perinatal Services BC, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority. This work responds to direction from the Transformative Change Accord for First Nations Health Plan, focusing on addressing issues arising from the BC Coroner’s Office Child Death Review Report. For more information or to enquire about training sessions and the availability of hard copies, please contact Adam King, Provincial Lead, Health Promotion & Prevention, Perinatal Services BC at .


What are some of the issues for First Nations Communities?

Evidence shows that First Nations women do not enjoy the same level of access to prenatal health care as other women in British Columbia, particularly those living in rural communities. The Transformative Change Accord First Nations Health Plan commits to bringing “Birth closer to home and into the hands of women.” BC First Nations have urged the mainstream health care system to recognize the unique place of midwifery in First Nation communities and the role of midwifery in the holistic view of childbirth.  Midwifery is not accessible to most First Nations women living in poverty or in rural areas.  Many of the women are forced to leave home to give birth to their babies in regional hospitals, great distances away from their families. 

For children, oral health is a key issue despite some of the successful initiatives and practical measures like the dental therapists program of FNIHB and Head-start programs. Hearing and vision screening services are not equitably provided to First Nations communities. Injuries caused to children through lack of routine seatbelt use by caregivers is a major issue.

What is our Strategic Goal?

The strategic goal of the Maternal & Child Health ‘cluster’ is to improve geographic and equitable access to all relevant services (including those delivered by Government, mainstream agencies and First Nations communities); work to ensure services are culturally responsive and safe for First Nations consumers and to focus on prevention & public health while improving ‘front line’ early intervention; treatment, referral and follow up services.
Tripartite Strategy Council Terms of Reference | pdf download |

Maternal and Child Health Committee

One of the most significant gains for First Nations in the area of Maternal and Child Health was the establishment of the Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health Committee in 2008.  This Committee, which includes representation from First Nations as well as the tripartite partners, has a role of assisting in enhancing and integrating culturally appropriate health services to Aboriginal children, women and communities in BC and providing direction and leadership around Aboriginal maternal and child health initiatives.  The committee set strategic direction to look at three key action areas articulated in the TFNHP:

  1. Ensuring vision, hearing and dental screening for Aboriginal children
  2. Improving access to (the full range of) maternity services for Aboriginal women
  3. Addressing issues arising from the BC Coroner’s office Child Death Review Report

Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health Committee Terms of Reference| pdf download |

First Nations feedback on maternal and child health serves as a foundation for the future direction of the Committee’s work and strategic planning.  In reviewing the BC First Nations Submission on Blueprint for Aboriginal Health (AFN) 2005, Gathering Wisdom Forums 2007-2009, Health Director’s Forum (2008) and Regional Caucus Sessions (2008-10), some of the key themes and priorities identified by First Nations communities regarding maternal and child health are as follows:

Maternal and Child Health

Child Health

Maternal Health

In terms of next steps, the Committee remains focused on the strategic priorities that have been identified in the area of maternal and child health and will continue to work with First Nations and tripartite partners to address the many issues facing First Nations with respect to maternal and child health.

Specific Health Actions from the TCA: FNHP and TFNHP
TCA # 10 - To improve child vision, hearing and dental screening for First Nations children
TCA # 11 - Follow up on the 2005 Child Death Review report with the BC Coroner’s office
TCA # 21 - Improve access to maternity services for Aboriginal women
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Childhood Health and Wellness Resource Booklets

How can we become the parents our children need us to be? Four new resource booklets can help First Nations and Métis parents answer this important question. The booklets were collaboratively developed by the National Collaborating Centre on Aboriginal Health and BC First Nations Health Authority to share important parenting information, strategies, tips, and other resources that will help parents raise healthy, secure, confident, trusting, and resilient children. The series takes a practical and positive approach, communicating the message that “Even if you did not have the parenting that you wanted or needed, you can become the parent your child needs.”

Family Connections
Family Connections presents information for parents on bonding, forming secure attachments with children, and connections with extended family and community. The importance of strengthening these ties is grounded in traditional First Nations and Métis culture and values: “Traditionally, parents saw themselves as being entrusted with the spirit of the child.  Children were sacred gifts and loved unconditionally. They were tended to immediately and were always comforted when they cried.  As a result, children had strong roots to their family and community. They knew who they were and knew their place in society.” Material is included on some of the challenges parents may face, such as the need for healing, self-care, getting help, baby blues, and postpartum depression.  As with the other booklets in this series, practical steps are described that parents can take with children at different developmental stages from pregnancy through age six.
PDF Download (1.42 mb)

Growing Up
Growing Up Healthy focuses on steps parents can take to keep infants and children well through nutrition, physical activity, and caring for the body. It presents information on traditional foods, ways to provide healthy food on a budget, and low and no cost ways to encourage active living. It also includes information on other topics related to health and well-being, such as sleep, regular check-ups, immunizations, and keeping children safe. The material incorporates a holistic view of health and wellness, and offers suggestions that connect body, mind, and spirit. For example, berry picking provides a free healthy activity and time together for adults and children; it builds confidence and coordination; and it teaches children where food comes from, respect for the land, and patience.
PDF Download (2.72 mb)

Parents as First Teachers
The booklet Parents as First Teachers focuses on early childhood learning through experience and play.  As Shawn A-in-Chut Atleo, National Chief, Assembly of First Nations, says, the goal of a bright future for children “starts with love and care in the home.” The booklet stresses the importance of exposing children to their First Nations or Métis language and culture, which will be the foundation of who they are. Positive discipline strategies are discussed, such as using praise, “time ins”, distractions, and natural consequences. To help them be the best teachers they can be, parents are encouraged to draw on a circle of support that includes friends, extended family, elders, ancestors, and community resources. 
PDF Download (1.66 mb)

Fatherhood is Forever
Fatherhood is Forever discusses why fathers are important, learning how to be a father, and some of the different approaches that can work in different situations. The booklet recognizes that many men grew up without an involved father and encourages: “The best thing about life is that it takes place in the moment. Every moment, you can choose a path of healing. Every step that you take in your own healing is a step towards becoming a better father.” Many ways are discussed that men can be confident and effective fathers, including providing a safe place for their children to grow, showing affection, honouring the children’s mother, and being a role model to build trust and respect. Many ideas are presented of how fathers can be involved at different stages of their child’s life, including caring for children, teaching, playing, and sharing family traditions.
PDF Download (1.69 mb)

To ensure wide access to the important information in this series, roughly 30,000 copies of these booklets will be distributed to communities, service providers, and organizations that reach First Nations and Métis parents throughout BC. These include Aboriginal Head Start programs, maternal-child health programs, and Friendship Centres. The booklets can also be viewed on the NCCAH and FNHA websites.

For more information, please contact us at: or visit the NCCAH website here.
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Introducing the Tripartite Aboriginal Doula Initiative DVD

Perinatal Services BC, an agency of PHSA, has launched a DVD to highlight the Tripartite Aboriginal Doula Initiative, which improves maternal health services for Aboriginal women by providing support to women during labour and birth.

The Aboriginal Doula Initiative has trained doulas in the Interior and Vancouver Island to provide emotional, physical, and spiritual support to Aboriginal women and families during pregnancy, labour, and after birth. Doulas provide comfort measures during childbirth and share information with the mother and father. Building on the role of the traditional aunty, the Aboriginal doula honours the traditional practices and beliefs as well as language and cultural barriers to support the needs of the woman and family.

The 10-minute video is also available on you tube: and includes personal stories from Aboriginal women who have had doula care during their pregnancy, experiences of doulas trained by the initiative, and information on how doulas and Aboriginal women connect within the community.

The Aboriginal Doula Initiative addresses part of the First Nation Health Plan (2005), which recommended bringing birth support close to home and into the hands of women. The initiative is running in Interior Health and on Vancouver Island as a demonstration project with the goal to develop a sustainable doula service model for Aboriginal women. The Aboriginal Doula Initiative will be evaluated to determine if it meets the needs of Aboriginal women and to explore options to make the program available across BC.

To learn more about the Aboriginal Doula Initiative, contact Lucy Barney, Aboriginal Lead, PSBC at or 604-877-2121, ext. 223766.

Your child’s hearing

Do you have or plan to have a new baby in your life? Identifying hearing loss early improves baby’s ability to learn and interact with others. This video is to help guide you through the process of hearing screening and follow-up testing for your baby. This video is an initiative of the Tripartite Maternal and Child Health Strategy Area and was created in partnership between Penelakut Tribe, the BC Early Hearing Program and the First Nations Health Authority.

“Your Child’s Hearing” is an initiative of the Tripartite Maternal and Child Health Strategy Area and was created in partnership between Penelakut Tribe, the BC Early Hearing Program and the First Nations Health Authority.

Family Path pamphlet

Illustrates the steps a family takes with their baby along the family care path. This pamphlet was developed by the BC Early Hearing Program in collaboration with the First Nations and Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health Strategy Area.

BCEHP Family Path First Nations document: Download PDF (1 mb)

Identifying hearing loss early improves a baby’s ability to learn and interact with others. This package is a resource for families with babies and very young children and for health care providers and educators who work with families. We hope that it will help increase awareness of the importance of finding hearing loss early and help families become more comfortable with the process of hearing screening and more in-depth testing.

We hope that you enjoy these resources. Hard copies of the DVD can be requested from the First Nations Health Authority (). Additional hard copies of the family care pamphlet and further information on early hearing services can be requested from the BC Early Hearing Program ().

Maternal Child Dental Health

On behalf of the First Nations Health Authority, the Tripartite Maternal and Child Health Committee, and Seabird Island Dental Centre, we are pleased to introduce the Maternal Child Dental Health Video. This video is targeted at parents and children age 0-6 years old to raise awareness and encourage discussion on the importance of dental care for First Nations children.

Dental health and dental decay amongst aboriginal children continue to be a health concern.  Preventing cavities and other related dental issues for our children begins at birth with parents who ensure that children are breast fed whenever possible, given minimal or no sugary foods and liquids and start to see a dental professional as soon as teeth emerge.

We hope you enjoy the video, and if you would like any further information on the Maternal Child Dental Health please feel free to contact the Seabird Island Dental Centre.

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Resources for childhood oral health

Key oral health resources for health providers to promote oral health and prevent early childhood caries were reviewed by an Oral Health Working Group and identified for the Tripartite Maternal Child Health Area. A short list of the best resources were identified and endorsed by the working group.

Oral Health Resource Recommendations PDF (229 kb)

Brush Up On Babys Teeth PDF (3619 kb)

Early Childhood Toothdecay PDF (1554 kb)

Healthy Snack Guide PDF (92 kb)

NHA Fluoride Varnish Program PDF (172 kb)

Nutritional Snacking PDF (1618 kb)

Oral Hygiene PDF (121 kb)

Pregnancy and Oral Health PDF (1459 kb)

Re-Think What You Drink PDF (178 kb)

Snack Masters PDF (182 kb)

VCH Lift The Lip PDF (516 kb)
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Celebrating The Circle Of Life: Coming Back To Balance And Harmony Guide

This guide can be downloaded from the website of Perinatal Services BC at

The BC Reproductive Mental Health Program (BCRMHP), a program of the BC Mental Health & Addiction Services (BCMHAS), and Perinatal Services BC, both agencies of the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), are proud to present Celebrating the Circle of Life, a resource for Aboriginal women and their care providers to support mental wellness during and after a pregnancy.

The guide was created to help Aboriginal women experience good emotional health during pregnancy and following the birth of a baby.  The guide discusses how depression may affect a women’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being, and what to do if that occurs.
The guide can be given to women to use independently, with a partner, family member or friend, or with their care provider.  It can also be used by care providers who work with Aboriginal women and their families in the perinatal period, especially those who may be experiencing depression.  Although each part of the guide has something helpful to offer, they can be read and discussed in any order.

A limited number of hard copies are available for free distribution and can be requested from Perinatal Services BC at 604-877-2121 or
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