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Community intervention trials
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Aboriginal health
Aboriginal Health
Amuzgo children in Guerrero, Mexico, during community research, in 1993.


From its earliest years, CIET has worked with indigenous communities, starting with Amuzgo and Mixteco populations in remote villages of Guerrero state, in Mexico. Aboriginal health research has been an essential part of our identity ever since (see audio slide show). Currently, we help communities in Mexico, Colombia and Canada as they take on pressing health and development concerns, such as youth resilience, safe motherhood, and HIV/AIDS, strive to preserve or reclaim their cultural heritage, and struggle to overcome health inequalities resulting from centuries of cultural and environmental marginalization.
Our work in this field has some common features:
  • Communities choose their research priorities and own the research process local people frame the issues and decide how to participate.
  • Our research focuses on community strengths – including spirituality, oral traditions, identity, and support networks -- that allow them to protect themselves and their members, overcome inequalities, and continue to develop.
  • In prevention studies, we put the stress on primary prevention, looking upstream for sources of individual and collective resilience. We also focus on environmental health, since many Aboriginal health problems are tied to changes in the environment.
  • We are as keen on collective dimensions of health challenges as we are on individual behavioural change. 
  • We do not conclude our research with lists of recommendations. We try to give scientific support to communities as they seek their own solutions, based on their own priorities.
  • We build community capacities for research and planning through participation.
  • We search for evidence in support of traditional healing practices and the role of medicinal plants in community health.
  • We seek to harmonize traditional knowledge and modern scientific practices, without marginalizing and destroying indigenous cultures. (For more information see Cultural safety)

    CIET has been working with Aboriginal communities in Canada since 1995, trying to help Aboriginal researchers conduct studies and use the evidence for planning with little external assistance. Our partnerships across Canada have tackled a range of health issues, from tobacco use to prenatal nutrition, youth resilience to HIV and AIDS and youth suicide. Grants from the AK-NEAHR [formerly the Ottawa ACADRE] have funded Aboriginal health researchers all over the country. A colloquium on ethics in Aboriginal research was held in 2003 in partnership with the Alberta ACADRE. A special collection of articles on CIET's work with Aboriginal communities in Canada has been published in the Summer 2008 issue of Pimatisiwin: A Journal of Indigenous and Aboriginal Community Research.



    CIET has been providing  support to the work of two groups dedicated to the preservation of traditional health knowledge in Colombia: one entiled Gestores de Salud or indigenous community health agents and the other called Dusakawi EPSI.

    A 2013 article investigates the association between self-reported dysmenorrhoea and patterns of female initiation rites at menarche among Amazonian indigenous peoples of Vaupés, Colombia. The full text of the article is available from BMJopen: Initiation rites at menarche and self-reported dysmenorrhoea among indigenous women of the Colombian Amazon: a cross-sectional study.




    Much of CIET’s work in Mexico has included aboriginal groups. Projects on safe motherhood, newborn survival and microregional planning provide concrete examples of how we interact with indigenous Mexican populations, as they develop research and planning capacities.


    Mexico 1993

    Mexico 2006


    CIET has been working with Aboriginal communities in Mexico since 1986. Neighbours of Guadalupe Victoria, in Guerrero state, left, discuss research findings in 1993. Ascencio Villegas, director of CIETmexico, and Celestino Gómez Vázquez, a community health promoter, right, working in the same village in 2006.