The Origins of Wellness Wheel

Before it had a name, Wellness Wheel existed largely as mobile medical outreach to several First Nations communities in southern Saskatchewan by Dr. Stuart Skinner. Dr. Skinner began this outreach while residing in Saskatoon, in response to increasing rates of HIV and HCV in First Nations communities, where ongoing linkage to and engagement into care was a challenge for many. The communities were open to his model of care being provided within, with and for their communities.

In 2013, Dr. Skinner moved to Regina. He continued his mobile outreach in HIV and HCV care, in First Nations communities. In 2016, he and Dr. Richardson entered into a new relationship with Val Desjarlais, Health Director for Touchwood Agency Tribal Council (TATC). Val had been working with ‘peers’ in her communities who had been diagnosed with Hepatitis C and were accessing care in Regina. The peers indicated that accessing care in Regina was often problematic and difficult, and that they would prefer to access care in their home community. To that end, Drs. Skinner and Richardson began to work with Val and her communities to determine a model of care for the communities.

In the spring of 2016, ceremony was held with Val, Elders from TATC and Drs. Skinner and Richardson, along with a couple of other interested physicians. Following that, Band Council Resolutions (BCRs) followed in the 4 TATC communities, indicating significant and long-term support for physicians and clinical support staff to come into the 4 communities to provide care. Because the physicians involved all had their own individual practices already functioning in Regina, a virtual clinic called Wellness Wheel was created, to ensure correct clinical information was sent to the Wellness Wheel hub, rather than the physicians’ primary medical practices. Clinics in TATC began sporadically in the summer of 2016 and have evolved to be a consistent model of care being provided within all 4 communities in TATC.

Currently, Wellness Wheel (WW) clinics operate through health centres within Saskatchewan Indigenous communities, in direct partnership with the communities, and in alignment with the local health priorities and needs identified in the communities. The WW clinical team (WWCT) has grown and now consists of primary care physicians, other specialist physicians (nephrology, general internal medicine, dermatology and infectious disease), registered nurses (RNs), pharmacists, a nurse practitioner, research and data support, as well as an administration support team. The WWCT partners with community healthcare teams (CHCTs) consisting of community health directors, community-based healthcare staff and homecare in the delivery of primary and chronic diseases care in, with and for the communities in which they serve.

Our mission is to improve and promote the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of Indigenous individuals, families and communities within Saskatchewan and beyond.  Wellness Wheel is an innovative, collaborative healthcare and research network working with First Nations communities and partners to improve and strengthen the quality of Indigenous health services, and the overall health and wellbeing of Indigenous people in Saskatchewan. In partnership with First Nations communities, we are committed to transformative research and culturally responsive health services that applies Indigenous knowledges and practices.