27 Wisdom Seeking, DocuStory, and Impact: A Transdisciplinary Approach to Improving Liver Wellness with Indigenous Communities

Gary W. Hayes and Kate P. R. Dunn


Hepatitis C is a viral blood borne infection that is both preventable and treatable, however rising rates within Indigenous communities across Canada show the current scientific or biomedical approaches are not sufficiently impacting awareness within this demographic (Fayed et al., 2018). Impersonal pharmaceutical cures, disconnection from the land, and a disproportionate impact of harms in part due to disruption of family circles and the traditional generational transfer of knowledge resulting from colonization events have resulted in patterns of abuse and substance misuse as a means of coping with this ongoing and historical trauma (Sylvestre et al., 2019; Tobias et al., 2013; Pearce et al., 2019). When we focus on relationship, respect and reciprocity while bringing Indigenous Ways of Knowing as the framework we create a culturally relevant approach to research. Facilitating health-related research with a transdisciplinary approach combines complimentary applied research methodologies and methods and increases the likelihood of change.

Indigenous Methodologies create a space to focus on meaning within context, relationships, and involvement of the human experience throughout the research process, while reflecting appreciation for the meanings or ‘Indigenous Ways of Knowing’ within gathered information (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016). By incorporating Indigenous perspectives in building knowledge with a foundation in respectful relationship, supporting wholistic and wellness framed approaches, we can utilize richly layered descriptive techniques in sharing information back to Indigenous communities and create positive impact (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016).

Complementing the use of Indigenous methodologies is Participatory Action Research (PAR). Participatory action research can be transformational; with an emphasis on co-learning, collaborative inquiry, and evidenced based decision-making throughout a systemic approach, stakeholders engage in an intervention process where cycles of co-created knowledge and action create pathways to change (Piggot-Irvine et. al, 2015). Applying both methodologies throughout the development and production of an educational DocuStory offers a unique opportunity to generate knowledge, story, and a strategic campaign for impact. A media practitioner impact framework will be utilized as an intervention within action research; the framework will be developed throughout the research design phase and will be guided by media literature, the DocSociety’s field guide (DocSociety, 2020), and leadership principals adopted from Sidle (2005). This approach allows for relationship-building, wholistic involvement, and shared vision when creating a strategic impact campaign. Generating and disseminating knowledge through a transdisciplinary applied research approach can help shift the narrative surrounding a societal issue with a goal of affecting positive social change. Stakeholders involved in the production of a DocuStory developed through Wisdom Seeking provide a unique knowledge environment for cycles of planning, implementation, and reflection through action research to address a local problem.

This paper examines the co-authors’ proposed collaborative research projects by contextualizing disciplinary backgrounds and examining a socially engaged transdisciplinary approach that will contribute to solving a complex real-word health issue. By providing an overview of research relevance within health and media disciplines, drawing on multiple methodologies, and exploring the value of transdisciplinarity, this paper demonstrates the potential for collaborative applied research. The resulting DocuStory will be a culturally relevant community based and co-produced awareness message on Hepatitis C accompanied by a co-designed strategic plan for impact.

Keywords: Indigenous methodologies; wisdom seeking; participatory action research; transdisciplinary; media practitioner impact framework; docustory

Acknowledgements: The coauthors would like to acknowledge the academic mentoring of Research Supervisors: Dr. Wendy Rowe & Dr Cheryl Barnabe. Committee Members: Dr. Athena Madan, Dr. Vanessa Simonds, Mark Stevenson, & Dr. Deborah Zornes


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