Oral Knowledge Transfer and COVID-19 Prevention


Across Canada as the rate of new COVID-19 infections has been steadily decreasing among the overall population, the cases of COVID-19 are rising in Indigenous communities.

According to Canada Public Health and Indigenous Services data, Indigenous communities currently have about 8 percent of the country’s active COVID-19 cases, despite accounting for about 5 percent of the total population.

While Ontario and Quebec had been the epicentre of the outbreaks in Canada, people in First Nations are being hit the hardest in Western Canada, where they can make up half the number of hospitalizations in some provinces.

We are pleased to announce our partnership with the Alberta First Nations Information Governance Centre for the development of oral Cree messages for increasing and enhancing understanding of COVID-19 prevention protocols, testing, precautions, and social distancing.

In addition to social and economic barriers impacting the health of First Nations communities, messaging around COVID-19 has primarily been developed and delivered in literature format which has had limited impact at the community level, in particular with groups that have lower literacy levels and have Cree as a first language. Particularly Elders and knowledge holders who are critical influencers of healthier choices and practices and messaging. Oral knowledge transfer through key messaging remains a very powerful way to influence and get critical messages out to multiple groups in a fast, efficient and consistent way.

Through CMF’s Stop the Gaps Campaign, the Alberta First Nations Information Governance Centre will be implementing the Wellbeing and Safety Cree Audio and Video Messages Project in 37 of 47 communities in Alberta who are Cree speaking.

A mix of virtual and in person engagement sessions with Cree speaking Knowledge holders will be developed. The engagement sessions will include messaging around COVID-19 transmission, risks, prevention and self-care.

The virus anywhere can affect us all everywhere. Working together we can stop the spread.

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CMF Bursaries for Indigenous Medical Students


In December 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released its final report that highlighted some of the disparities in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada, including an infant mortality rate ranging from 1.7 to over 4 times the non-Indigenous average and a diabetes rate nearly twice as high among

Indigenous people compared to non-Indigenous aged 45 and older. The Commission also called upon governments to act towards increasing the number of Indigenous healthcare workers in Canada.

According to Canada’s 2016 Census of Population, more than 1.67 million people in Canada (4.9% of the population of Canada) self-identified as an Indigenous person and yet less than one percent (760) of the 93,985 specialists and general practitioners in Canada identify as Indigenous.

Indigenous peoples face significant barriers to post-secondary education. As a result, far fewer First Nations, Métis, and Inuit in Canada have a university degree than non-Indigenous Canadians. Achieving a medical degree is an even steeper climb due to a variety of factors, one of which is financial.

CMF is working with Indspire, a national Indigenous charity, to bridge that gap through the establishment of Indspire’s only bursary focused on future physicians going to any medical school in Canada. With the support of funding partners like CMF, Indspire provides financial support for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis students across Canada to assist them in completing their post-secondary education.

Bursaries like CMF’s Bursaries for Indigenous Medical Students are matched by the Government of Canada, allowing Indspire to be double the impact for students.

The “Calls to Action” envisioned a role for all Canadians in improving health outcomes for Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Education is vital to the reconciliation process. Together with our Indigenous partners and generous Canadian donors we can do our part and help increase the number of Indigenous physicians in Canada.

Donate now towards CMF’s Bursaries for Medical Students for which Indspire will be able to secure government funding to double your impact.

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Helping prevent infection of frontline healthcare workers


With the COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped our world, the Canadian Medical Foundation’s priority focus is the prevention of infectious diseases through projects that address gaps in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) efforts.

A June 1, 2020, Lancet meta-analysis of 13 studies showed that wearing eye protection, like face shields, resulted in a 78% reduction in infection with COVID-19, SARS or MERS.  However, due to the global shortage of disposable face shields, many sub-standard face shield products are flooding the market, single-use face shields are being re-used off label, and face shields are not being properly decontaminated before re-use. This poses a health and safety risk to healthcare workers.

A sustainable solution is urgently needed.

The CDC’s September 15, 2020 guidance on reprocessing disposable face shields states to “carefully avoid the foam cushion and elastic strap as they may not be tolerant to disinfectants.” This means that the skin contacting foam cushion and elastic strap are not typically decontaminated before reuse.

Reusable face shields need to be fully decontaminated before reuse to ensure that the risk of infection is minimized, with a decontamination protocol that includes both cleaning and disinfection. No decontamination kits to properly clean and disinfect reusable face shields are currently marketed in Canada. The currently available decontamination protocols for reusable face shields often fail to include the cleaning step and usually recommend using toxic or flammable chemical disinfection agents.

Before a reusable face shield can be brought to market, the process for cleaning and disinfection must go through a complete and expensive validation process to prove that it is effective.  However, due to recent shortages, Health Canada has allowed – on a temporary basis – face shields to be exempt from validation testing.

Dr. Julielynn Wong is board-certified in aerospace medicine, occupational medicine, public health and general preventive medicine, and is the founder of 3D4MD, a social enterprise whose mission is to provide regulatory-compliant, 3D printable healthcare supplies to remote communities.

3D4MD’s analysis has shown that none of the face shields marketed in Canada as “100% reusable” have undergone the necessary and costly quality standards testing by independent, accredited laboratories to validate that these devices can be properly cleaned, disinfected, and safely reused.

The 3D4MD 100% Reusable Face Shield and Decontamination Kit has been designed to prevent infection of frontline healthcare workers in community and institutional settings. The Decontamination Kit for the 3D4MD 100% Reusable Face Shield uses an environmentally safe, non-toxic, rapid action (1 minute), single-agent cleaner and COVID-19 disinfectant authorized by Health Canada.

The Canadian Medical Foundation has committed to support Dr. Wong in obtaining regulatory standards certification testing by an accredited, independent laboratory to demonstrate that the 3D4MD 100% Reusable Face Shield can be properly cleaned and disinfected with the 3D4MD Face Shield Decontamination Kit in accordance with Health Canada regulatory standards.

The proper use of face shields is an overlooked and neglected topic in COVID-19 prevention. Without safe, reusable personal protective equipment, frontline healthcare workers will be forced to continue to reuse sub-standard, untested face shields made of cheap, low-grade plastic with a limited lifespan. This significantly increases their infection risk for COVID-19, exposes staff to toxic chemical disinfectants, utilizes more healthcare resources, raises healthcare delivery costs, and increases the amount of medical waste in landfills and oceans.

Working together, supporting each other, we can stop the spread of COVID-19.


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Distributing Critical Hygiene Products (Project Completed)


In the summer of 2020 as Canadians were instructed to increase their hygiene efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19, the challenges faced by too many fellow Canadians due to socio-economic status were more visible than ever. There was a higher risk of vulnerability in certain segments of our population.

As part of our Stop the Gaps campaign, CMF partnered with Soap for Hope in British Columbia to acquire and distribute essential personal hygiene kits people who may have trouble obtaining hygiene products.

Before the pandemic, our partner collected gently used or unused soap and hygiene products from the hotel and accommodation industry that would otherwise be discarded and fill our landfills. Volunteers would then reprocess these useable products to create Hygiene Kits which would be distributed to local shelters, transitional homes, food banks, low income seniors, and other vulnerable or remote communities.

At a time when the demand was never greater, the supply of used product was drastically reduced with the temporary closure of most hotels and volunteers were not able to convene in the warehouse due to restrictions around COVID-19 and fears around all but essential gathering of groups.

Soap for Hope therefore had to resort to buying products that were often in short supply even in retail stores as consumers are stocking up. Soap for Hope Canada had several Community Facilities reach out for vital hygiene supplies and until CMF funding was provided, they had not been able to help them.

With CMF’s grant through our Close the Gaps campaign, Soap for Hope was able to quickly supply 5 locations with hygiene amenities that are so critical in our current world pandemic.

Whispers of Hope – Grand Forks. This organization provides a year round centre and drop in centre for vulnerable people in their community. They have over 60 drop ins a day; for a meal, clothing, and essentials. Hygiene amenities are products they never have enough of and with the grant our partner was able to supply this Community Facility with shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and feminine hygiene products among other supplies.

Nourish Cowichan Society – Cowichan Valley. This organization primarily helps young kids with food and essential items. This organization provides 300 food hampers bi-weekly and Soap for Hope was able to provide family sized products of Shampoo, Conditioner, Soap, Toothbrushes and Toothpaste to their food hampers.

Comox Valley Foodbank – The foodbank provides food and essential products to over 2000 people a month in this area. Although food is the primary items provides, if people are struggling to get food, they most likely do not have basic hygiene amenities for themselves and their kids (30% of this number is kids). With the grant our partner was able to provide Shampoo, Conditioner, Soap, Toothbrushes, Toothpaste and Deodorant to their distribution in August.

Comox Valley Nursing Centre – Comox. Helping Seniors is probably one of the most difficult demographics to help as they do not want “charity” and yet are often unable to access supplies for themselves that nursing centres may not provide. With the grant Soap for Hope was able to provide basic supplies that the nursing centre distributed to the residents.

VIHA – Mental Health Unit – Victoria. This unit assists patients experiencing mental health issues. In the past, the nurses were using their own funds to purchase hygiene products for their patients but they reached out to our partner when one of the nurses heard about the program and asked for help. Our partner was to provide jugs of products for them to have on the ward. Once patients were released, they were given Hygiene Kits (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotion and soap) plus were able to provide combs, chapstick and deodorant.

“Our patients in the hospital have benefited from Soap for Hope – being able to have
more than an adequate supply to hygiene products they normally could not afford otherwise.
It has made a difference in the day to day lives of many living with mental health and substance use challenges on our units in the hospital. We are able to transition people out of the hospital with some quality supplies to ensure they can take care of their hygiene needs.”

In addition, our partner was able to leverage our grant to get freight companies to help with deliveries and was able to get the blankets from a local source.

Even in Canada there are gaps that risk the spread of infectious diseases, especially within vulnerable communities. The virus anywhere can affect us all everywhere. We are proud of our partnership with Soap for Hope in closing some of these gaps, and grateful to the CMF donors who helped support our efforts.

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Making soap