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New app designed to facilitate COVID-19 response for Indigenous communities

Last Updated Feb 14, 2021 at 9:38 am MDT

WINNIPEG (CityNews) – Canadian researchers have developed a new app that is designed to help Indigenous communities around the world with their COVID-19 pandemic response.

The “COVID-19 Indigenous” app was created at the University of Manitoba in partnership with Indigenous leaders. It is considered the first of its kind.

Evan Chamakese, the community outreach coordinator with the “COVID-19 Indigenous” project, says the app will allow communities to document impacts and responses to the pandemic in real time. He says communities will have full control of their own data.

“What we have been hearing over the past several months is that First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities face barriers from accessing their own health data,” said Chamakese. “So what this project does is it will enable them to collect their own data and respond to any impacts, reducing reliance on any outside agencies of governments.

“And it will also help communities track changes for the health and well-being of its members.”

The app is available for both Apple and Android users and specifically designed for Indigenous communities in Canada.

Dr. Myrle Ballard, a University of Manitoba professor with the department of chemistry, says Indigenous communities have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic and that this app could prove to be a game changer.

“When First Nations people need their data, they have to rely on external data sources, and this is a chance for First Nations people to catch their own data,” said Ballard. “And it’s right there for them when they have to review their stats.”

The information collected through the questionnaires on the app is expected to help health directors and leaders in rolling out relevant programs for Indigenous communities, including inoculation.

“What this app will do through the questionnaires and surveys is give them their voice, which health directors can use to pass on to leadership and elders and hopefully they can respond and better serve their members,” said Chamakese.

Ballard says this is also a new way for community members to stay connected while staying safe.

“People like to talk to one another and with the pandemic we can’t really visit with one another,” she said. “And I think this will be a way for First Nations people to capture their feelings by using the app and share their feelings.”

The official launch for the app will take place via Zoom on Feb. 18.