Quw'utsun Preterm Birth Study

What is the Quw'utsun Preterm Birth Study?

Persistent differences in pregnancy and birth outcomes, such as preterm birth, between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people are linked to the impacts of colonization, such as Indian Residential Schools, and removal of traditional birth practices from communities. Preterm birth is a live birth before 37 weeks of gestation and has long-lasting health impacts on the infant, mother, and their family.  There is a growing movement to reclaim birth in Indigenous communities around the world to ensure culturally safe care, promote traditional ways of birthing, and eliminate differences in birth outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

In 2019, Cowichan Tribes launched the Quw’utsun (Cowichan) Preterm Birth Study, a 3-year research study with funding from Vancouver Foundation, to investigate factors driving high rates of preterm birth in the community, in partnership with the BC First Nations Health Authority and Island Health. By using the findings of this research, the vision is to ultimately bring healthy birth back to Quw’utsun

The study team was recently awarded another 3-year research grant from Vancouver Foundation titled, “Reclaiming Snuw’uy’ulh (Teachings) to Strengthen Perinatal Health Systems for Quw’utsun Mustimuhw (Cowichan People).” With this funding, the study team will gather knowledge about the community’s vision for the best possible health system to support Quw’utsun mothers, babies, and families. The team will also continue working with partners to act on preliminary findings from the first phase of the project.


Study team

The study is led by Sul-hween (Quw’utsun Elders) and based at Ts’ewulhtun Health Centre.

Sul-hween Lydia Seymour and Doreen Peter lead the Study and two staff, Brenda Yuen, Special Projects Research Advisor, and Jennifer Murray, support all aspects of the research. Jennifer is a PhD Candidate at UBC's School of Population and Public Health and a trainee with the Quw'utsun Preterm Birth Study.


Brenda Yuen

brenda.yuen@cowichantribes.com or

Ts’ewulhtun Health Centre 

(250) 746-6184

Advisory Committee

A Community Research Advisory Committee guides all activities and includes:

Quw’utsun community members: Lynsey Johnny, Maia Thomas, and Eugenia Tinoco

Ts’ewulhtun Health Centre staff: Liz Spry, Fairlie Mendoza, Marnie Elliott, and Nilak Ironhawk-Tommy

Island Health partners: Dr. Shannon Waters and Dr. Diane Sawchuck

First Nations Health Authority partners: Barbara Webster and Ashley Simpson, and a

Part-time staff member: Joban Dhanoa  

Featured Presentations, Articles, & Research



November 28, 2023

In partnership with the First Nations Health Authority, Cowichan Tribes launched the Quw’utsun Preterm Birth Study to develop community-based approaches to mitigate factors associated with high rates of preterm birth. Island Health is partnering with Cowichan Tribes to examine preterm birth and generate community-driven solutions to strengthen perinatal health systems for Indigenous people across Vancouver Island. In this talk, we will discuss our research process and preliminary results.

• Lydia Seymour (Quw’utsun Elder)
• Doreen Peter (Quw’utsun Elder)
• Brenda Yuen (Quw'utsun Preterm Birth Study)
• Maia Thomas and Eugenia Tinoco, Advisory Committee members (Quw'utsun Preterm Birth Study)
• Dr. Shannon Waters (Medical Health Officer, Cowichan Valley, Island Health)
• Dr. Patricia Janssen (School of Population and Public Health, UBC)
• Dr. Diane Sawchuck (Lead, Evidence, Evaluation & Knowledge Translation, Island Health)
• Jennifer Murray (School of Population and Public Health, UBC)

Published Articles

International Journal of Indigenous Health Vol. 16 No. 2 (2021)

Bringing Ethics Review Home to Cowichan: Indigenizing Ethics Review in British Columbia, Canada


Published 2021-01-11


Cowichan Tribes’ territory, located in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, is experiencing an alarmingly high rate of preterm births compared to the national average of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. In response, and in partnership with the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), Cowichan Tribes is in the first year of a 3-year study to investigate causes. Cowichan Tribes’ Elders and community members are guiding the study to ensure it follows Cowichan Tribes’ research processes and to support self- determination in research. Furthermore, as a way to enhance reconciliation, Elders and community members guided an on-site ethics review on Cowichan Tribes territory. This article outlines the collaborative, in-person research ethics review process that Cowichan Tribes, Island Health, and FNHA completed on August 21, 2019. The purpose of this article is to provide suggestions other First Nations could use when conducting a research ethics review, and to explain how this process aligns with the principles of ownership, control, access, and possession (OCAP®), the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and above all, the Cowichan snuw’uy’ulh (teachings from Elders).



BC Children’s Hospital Feature

BCCH Article Pre-Term Birth.PNG

Read the full article here: