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Aboriginal health issues focus of new board game

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The Native Physicians’ Association of Canada and area aboriginal community leaders launched an educational board game at the United Native Friendship Centre here yesterday that encourages healthier lifestyles among native adolescents.

Dubbed the “Caring Together” interactive board game, it provides a context for players to explore, discuss, and develop informed views on a wide range of teen issues.

The object of “Caring Together” is for young players to achieve “wellness” by gaining seven life teachings—love, caring, truth, respect, courage, humility, and wisdom.

Dr. Vincent Tookenay of Ottawa, with the NPAC, was on hand to promote the importance of the game to area youth.

During a telephone interview prior to the launch, Dr. Tookenay stressed the need for adolescents to have alternative avenues for communicating their thoughts and feelings to one another.

“Aboriginal students are not the most vocal. It’s often hard to draw out a verbal conversation with them on [important issues],” he noted.

“[The game] will provide information to help the target population deal with life issues, [specifically] peer pressure and the responsible use of alcohol, [and] sensitive issues such as sexuality, stress, and depression,” he added.

“It will provide a forum to facilitate discussion,” he reasoned. “Armed with more knowledge, they can make better decisions.”

“Caring Together” is based—in design and concept—on the structure and teachings of the traditional medicine wheel, a symbol adopted by many aboriginal peoples.

It is used to explain things that cannot be seen, and to illustrate relationships within oneself and the environment, like the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of self and relations with family, community, nation, and the physical world.

Sheila McMahon, executive director at the local UNFC, said five game boards were handed out here yesterday by the NPAC to be distributed between the UNFC, the Aboriginal Training and Learning Centre (TLC), and the Rainy Lake Ojibway Education Authority.

And as far as she was concerned, the educational tool already had begun to prove its worth as a beneficial avenue for adolescent communication on health issues.

“We had a group of youths here in attendance at the presentation and once they started playing the game together, they had a lot of fun,” McMahon enthused.

“They started talking to one another,” she noted. “It’s really important to get youth to talk. They have a hard enough time talking to adults.”

The distribution of the interactive board game is the third phase in the NPAC’s “Caring Together” campaign, which has been developed with financial support from the Brewers Association of Canada.

Phases one and two dealt with health issues facing young native mothers and their support systems, and focused on “No Alcohol During Pregnancy” guidelines.

The NPAC has introduced the “Caring Together” campaign to First Nations communities and centres across Canada over the past few weeks.

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