The Elders Mentoring program is one of four programs within a larger initiative called the ENRICH First Nations research project. The ENRICH program represents a partnership between Maskwacis Health Services, the University of Alberta, Elders and community member representatives from Maskwacis.
The program was conceptualized as Elders interacting with pregnant women and their partners in the clinical setting, to offer support and ultimately to “protect every grandchild” (Elder). Most pregnant women from the community receive prenatal services off-reserve, from the Wetaskiwin Primary Care Network (PCN). Care team members are primarily non-Indigenous. Collaboration with the PCN was initiated and the EMP was born. In March 2016, Elders began attending the PCN for half-day sessions on one of two prenatal clinic days each week. Elders engaged with parents in the waiting area by striking up conversations, offering support, distributing program flyers, providing healthy snacks and beverages, conducting cultural activities and displays, speaking about their experiences and traditional ways of pregnancy and childbirth, and initiating draws for free traditional moss bag infant carriers and gift cards to local stores. Parents seeking additional Elder support could speak privately in a separate room. Elders volunteered their support 24 hours per day and were primarily accessible by telephone. After piloting our approach for 3 months, the EMP was expanded (with Elders attending 2 full prenatal clinic days each week), advertised, and re-launched. Approximately 30% of pregnant women from the community were exposed to the EMP each month at the PCN.