Nîsohkamâtowak means ‘helping each other’ in the Cree language. This name was creatively chosen through a partnership between the Kidney Health Community Program and First Nations and Métis Health Services with the Saskatoon Health Region. Nîsohkamâtowak is about recognizing and acknowledging the Truth and Reconciliation ‘Calls to Action’ and closing the gaps in kidney health care for First Nations and Métis people.

Relationship building is a key component through which we can ‘help each other.’ This approach is intentional about being sure we follow traditional protocols and create safe spaces for those relationships to grow. The process of Nîsohkamâtowak is patient focused and incorporates a strengths-based holistic approach. This initiative was developed from a place of good intention, open hearts and partnerships. First and foremost it is about listening to the voice and experience of patient, families and communities we serve in healthcare, and focusing on how we can improve the care they receive.

In October 2015 the first Nîsohkamâtowak gathering brought together First Nations and Métis kidney patients and family members at Wanuskewin.

The purpose of the event was to improve kidney services for First Nations and Métis residents of Saskatchewan based on the experience and advice of patients and family members. Nîsohkamâtowak provided a safe and trusting environment that allowed patients and family members to share their stories and provide direction to the Kidney Health Community Program.

Many participants recommended that events similar to Nîsohkamâtowak 2015 be held in communities throughout Northern and Central Saskatchewan. The Kidney Health Program listened and proceeded to host Nîsohkamâtowak events in Meadow Lake (Meadow Lake Tribal Council), La Ronge (Lac la Ronge Indian Band) and Pelican Narrows (Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation).

The second Nîsohkamâtowak event at Wanuskewin in 2017 was a success. Patients and family members, community health workers and the Improvement Team staff gathered at Wanuskewin to continue the collaboration designed to improve Kidney Health services for First Nations and Métis patients.

This gathering followed in the tradition of Nîsohkamâtowak, marked by observance of traditional protocols and alignment with Saskatoon Health Region’s commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the ‘Calls to Action’.

Patients and family members were asked to provide guidance on priorities for action with respect to kidney health. The following priorities were highlighted by participants:

· Education - improved kidney health education, information delivery and print resources;

· Support – improved support, support networks and after care;

· Traditional Practices – Inclusion of traditional medicines and foods;

· Wellness – improved support for healthy diet and exercise; and

· Cultural Competency – better understanding by health providers, translation of education materials into indigenous languages, and as part of patient visits.

We are very grateful for the generous participation of patients and family members and their dedication to improving health in their communities. We look forward to continued work with them in the future.

The following videos help to tell the story of our Nisohkamatowak journey, and honour the spirit and voices of our Elders, patients and families. 

We would also like to thank our Improvement Team members, who support Nîsohkamâtowak and our patients, families, and communities: Kidney Health Community Program, First Nations and Métis Health Services, Employee Wellness, Chronic Disease Management , St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation, and the Kidney Foundation.