Barriers for northern communities in accessing rehabilitation services

Dr. Liris Smith in front of the Ayamdigut Campus in Whitehorse

Dr. Liris Smith recently published an article in Frontiers in Rehabilitation Sciences outlining challenges that many Yukon First Nation communities face when trying to access physical therapy services. Liris identifies a need to integrate Indigenous ways of knowing and doing into Western biomedical approaches for rehabilitation services. Most current service delivery models are based in Western medicine practices and most often, do not account for the local, political, cultural and spiritual needs of communities. As a physical therapist and health manager/director, Liris has found that successful implementation of services requires establishment of relationships, collaboration, and trust in small communities. 

Liris’ article serves as a catalyst for change in the healthcare community and points out the necessity for health care providers and funders to learning more about Canada’s colonial past and be open to other knowledge systems. Liris believes that to truly move toward reconciliation we must decolonize our approaches to providing health services and balance the power away from the clinician as expert. 

Liris is currently Health Research Chair for the Yukon SPOR Support Unit at YukonU Research Centre. This unit aims to give voices to people and the community, having them be partners in the health research process. Liris was able to cover the publishing fees for this article with the Scholarly Activity Grant