A Hollistic Approach to Wellbeing

Written By Jason Kreutz


Western conceptualizations of health care have been typically predicated
upon the physical condition. This focus on the physical side of healthcare
mandates the typical treatments offered- surgical, pharmaceutical, and
lifestyle changes are some of the common treatments used in our current healthcare system. After spending the first half of my summer at the Indigenous Wellness Program (IWP) located at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, I have realized the importance of examining other aspects of wellbeing beyond physical wellness. Geared towards indigenous wellness, this clinic is a departure from normal western healthcare, instead utilizing a multicultural and holistic approach to

This clinic is designed to blend traditional indigenous knowledge with
western healthcare knowledge. While the clinic offers typical services such as check-ups and examinations, cultural helpers are also present to facilitate culturally sensitive knowledge and care, although traditional indigenous healers are not present. Through this, health care practitioners and indigenous leaders have created a culturally safe space for indigenous peoples to seek care. In addition to these services, Chronic Disease Management, a Diabetes Intake Program, educational programs for AHS staff and at-risk youth, palliative care, traditional medicine picking, Women’s Support, and outreach programs to rural indigenous communities are offered amongst other things. Through this, the clinic is also able to expand beyond treatment to providing preventative care. 

While indigenous perspectives are extremely diverse and intricate, one of
the most profound lessons on traditional medicine I have received during my time at the IWP is that of the Wellness Wheel. The Wellness Wheel combines four attributes: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. If any of these elements falls out of balance, the health of any individual may become compromised. In this regard, traditional indigenous perspectives on wellness transcend western medicines fixation on primarily physical symptoms and solutions, instead giving equal attention to all four attributes within the Wellness Wheel.

While western healthcare has done an excellent job in many regards, it is also clear to me that there is a plethora of knowledge that western medicine could gain from indigenous health perspectives. For example, given the current mental health crisis, shifting towards a more holistic view of health beyond immediate physical symptoms seems long overdue.  Further
integration of mental, emotional, and spiritual care within the framework of our healthcare system will provide great benefit to those suffering from circumstances outside of purely physical ailments. With the recent calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, adoption of traditional indigenous wellness values and providing culturally sensitive care across Canada will be essential in moving forward toward mitigating health disparities for indigenous peoples and ultimately facilitating decolonization.


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