SPPH 404: Indigenous Health : Historical Impacts and Contemporary Approaches

Registrations begin June 22nd, time to be determined by UBC course registration

View course Description at  UBC Calendar | SPPH

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Winter Term 2021: Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5 – 6:30pm, LIFE 2212 Room 

 This course covers an epistemological approach that considers the social determinants of health and Indigenous spiritual-environmental and cultural perspectives and approaches to health and wellness. It will include lecture, safe space for small and large group discussions, talks from Indigenous health leaders, and applied learning activities. Gain insight on Indigenous peoples’ perspectives on health and wellbeing, analyze the impacts of colonization and related policies on Indigenous peoples, and learn about cultural and traditional healing approaches to health policies, services, and practices. The strengths and resiliency of Indigenous peoples will be highlighted throughout the course.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Gain insight into and value Indigenous peoples’ perspectives on health and wellbeing.
  • Analyze the impacts of colonization and related policies (Residential Schools, Indian Hospitals, Indian Act, Treaties and Land Claims, Truth and Reconciliation) on the health and wellbeing of Indigenous peoples.
  • Interpret how government policies, practices, and structures impact Indigenous health and wellbeing today.
  • Relate the social determinants of health for Indigenous peoples to their impact on key health issues such as chronic diseases, cancer, mental health, addiction, and
  • Outline the cultural determinants of health.
  • Describe cultural and traditional healing approaches to health policies, services, and practices.
  • Illustrate the mental health and wellness issues and challenges Indigenous people face.
  • Design a health service that implements Indigenous approaches to health and wellness.
  • Commit to cultural safety and exemplify cultural humility.


Learning Activities:

Reflection and discussion are key aspects of integrating the knowledge from this course. There will be opportunities for discussion in pairs, in small groups and an emphasis on activities that include critical thinking, creativity, applied learning, and self-reflection. Students will have the opportunity to participate in cultural activities such as talking circles and hear from Elders and cultural people who will drum and share traditional stories and teachings.


Highlights of Topics Covered:

 Holistic views of health and wellness from First Nations, Metis and Inuit perspectives

  • Impacts of colonization and overview of Residential Schools, Indian Hospitals, Indian Act, Reserve System, 60’s scoop, Murdered and Missing Women, Idle No More, Black Lives Matter
  • How systemic racism impacts Indigenous people’s health and the culturally safe policy and programs needed to address it.
  • Social determinants of health for Indigenous Peoples including self-determination and connection to culture.
  • Culture and identity and their impacts on mental health and wellness
  • Models and examples of successful health and wellness programming that incorporate traditional healing and approaches



The School of Population and Public Health offers two courses with a focus on Indigenous Health– SPPH 404 (Indigenous Health: Historical Impacts and Cultural Approaches) and SPPH 536 (Aboriginal People and Public Health: Ethics, Policy, and Practice). 

SPPH 404 provides an introduction to Indigenous public health, giving valuable insight into Indigenous perspectives on health and wellness, an outline of the various cultural determinants of health, an exploration of systemic racism, privilege, and personal reflections on positionality in relation to Indigenous peoples. This course will also provide a foundation of the history and current impacts surrounding Indigenous public health in Canada.

SPPH 536 provides opportunities for deeper understanding into the link between historical and current government practices and intergenerational Indigenous health outcomes, critical analysis of ethical frameworks and issues in Indigenous public health, and analysis of historical and current Canadian legislation relevant to Indigenous public health.

For those considering taking one or both courses— it is strongly recommended that students without prior knowledge or lived experience of Indigenous health take SPPH 404 first. For Masters in Public Health students struggling to navigate the decision between the two courses, please contact Gina Abernethy (gina.abernethy@ubc.ca) to further discuss which course is right for you.

Course offerings from SPPH are available on the website here