Knowledge Resources & Publications

Webinar: At the interface - Indigenous health practitioners and evidence based practice

March 2020


A webinar hosted by the National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health (NCCIH).

With a growing acknowledgement of the importance of Indigenous knowledges and traditional practices to the health and wellbeing of Indigenous peoples, Indigenous health practitioners have increased their efforts to integrate Indigenous and Western systems into their health care practices and policies. In this way, they find themselves at the interface of these two distinct and often contrasting knowledges, evidence, and practices to best address the complex health needs of their Indigenous patients.

This webinar highlights findings from the NCCIH’s publication, At the interface: Indigenous health practitioners and evidence-based practice. Co-author Dr. Kim van der Woerd and Kylee Swift will summarize key research and policy findings of this publication. Dr. Bernice Downey will then discuss the unique issues related to health practice that accompany working between, and within, these two worlds.

Learning objectives

  • Explore the concepts of evidence-based medicine (EBM) and practice (EBP) as they relate to the knowledge needs of Indigenous health practitioners.
  • Understand the challenges and opportunities faced by Indigenous health practitioners for blending Indigenous and Western knowledges into their health care practices.
  • Discuss wise practices employed by Indigenous health practitioners in accessing and utilizing Indigenous knowledges and traditional practices to optimize the health outcomes of Indigenous patients.


Dr. Bernice Downey is a woman of Ojibwe and Celtic heritage, a mother and a grandmother. She is a medical anthropologist with research interests in health, health literacy and Indigenous Traditional knowledge and health/research system reform for Indigenous populations. Bernice is currently cross appointed to the School of Nursing and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences and is the Indigenous Health Lead for the Faculty of Health Science at McMaster University. She holds a Heart & Stroke Foundation - Canadian Institute of Health Research - Chair in Indigenous Women’s Heart and Brain Health. She is also the A/Director of the McMaster Indigenous Research Institute (MIRI). Bernice’s professional experience includes Sole Proprietor of her consulting company; 'Minoayawin - Good Health Consulting'; Chief Executive Officer of the National Aboriginal Health Organization and Executive Director of the Aboriginal Nurses Association of Canada. She was one of two Indigenous leads for the WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, Canadian Reference Group. Director and Research Associate of the Well Living House - Centre for Research on Inner City Health at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. She was a member of the Canadian Institute of Health Research - Institute of Aboriginal Health, Advisory Board for six years. Bernice also successfully led the development of the McMaster Indigenous Research Institute.

She is an experienced administrator, facilitator, and an organizational and systemic change agent. She is also a life - long advocate in the work towards addressing the serious health inequities among Indigenous populations in Canada.

Dr. Kim van der Woerd is a member of the ‘Namgis First Nation from Alert Bay, BC. Kim is the owner of Reciprocal Consulting, an Indigenous consulting firm specializing in program evaluation and research. She has over 20 years of experience conducting local, provincial and national program evaluations managing over 200 projects. Kim completed her PhD in Psychology at Simon Fraser University. Her dissertation was the recipient of the Michael Scriven Dissertation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Evaluation Theory, Methodology or Practice, 2007. Kim also received the Canadian Evaluation Society Contributions to Evaluation in Canada 2014 Award for her mentorship of Indigenous students. More recently, Kim was awarded the 2018 BC Community Achievement Award, and the 2018 Mitchell Award through the BC Achievement Foundation; as well as the Indigenous Business Award 2018 for businesses with 3-10 people. Kim and her team at Reciprocal Consulting are passionate about social justice, and culturally responsive research and evaluation. Kim has also been active in her community serving on many boards locally and nationally.

Sofia Vitalis was born and raised on the stolen lands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw and mi ce:p kʷətxʷiləm Nations. She studied sociology at Simon Fraser University, where she realized her passion for thinking reflectively and seeing the world through multiple ways of knowing, as well as through an intersectional lens. She has honed in on these passions with over four years of work as a research and evaluation consultant at Reciprocal Consulting in Indigenous social programming such as health, women’s safety, justice, and cultural safety.

Suggested Reading

National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health. (2019). At the interface: Indigenous health practitioners and evidence based practice (PDF). Prince George, BC: Author.

Webinar Resources