Aboriginal health org snuffed out amidst Health Canada cutbacks

Ottawa euthanizes NAHO, Inuit Tuttarvingat

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

(Updated April 10, 11:25 a.m.)

The National Aboriginal Health Organization has fallen victim to a Health Canada plan to trim 840 jobs and cut $200 million from its budget and will shut down June 30.

“Funding has been cut by Health Canada. It is with sadness that NAHO will wind down by June 30, 2012,” the Ottawa-based organization, which received about $5 million a year from Health Canada, said April 6.

Founded in 2000, the Ottawa-based NAHO oversaw many research and outreach programs, such as the Honouring Life suicide prevention network, the aboriginal role model program, a midwifery program, and the Inuit tobacco-free network.

Over its 12 year lifespan, NAHO produced more than 200 health reports, guides and fact sheets, filmed elders talking about traditional knowledge and produced 12 issues of the Journal of Aboriginal Health.

Now, NAHO will negotiate with universities and research institutions to take over its assets, the NAHO statement said.

NAHO announced its demise the day after the organization had asked for new contributions to the fall edition of its journal, which was to be devoted to “Inuit health and wellness in its broadest sense.”

NAHO is also folding its Facebook site and website.

In a series of tweets April 10, Steve Outhouse, the director of communications for Leona Aglukkaq, the national health minister, said the Assembly of First Nations, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis National Council, have withdrawn their support for NAHO.

In response to a critical editorial and column in the Globe and Mail, Outhouse said in a tweet that the Globe “doesn’t mention AFN, ITK & MNC withdrew support for NAHO.”

He also said the federal government still spends $30 million a year on aboriginal health research.

The NAHO website describes the organization as “one of the leading health information sources in the world,” from which there were more 640,000 downloads last year, is among its “greatest assets,” the organization said.

NAHO said it also mailed more than 250,000 publications to health care providers, communities and individuals.

The Inuit section of NAHO, known as the Ajunnginiq Centre before 2008, became the Inuit Tuttarvingat, whose mandate was “to collect and share information and knowledge on a wide range of health and wellness issues of concern to Inuit.”

Last December, it produced a report If Not Now…When? Addressing the Ongoing Inuit Housing Crisis in Canada, overcrowded housing across the Canadian Arctic is one of the biggest threats to Inuit health and well-being.

Earlier this year, the Inuit health group ran a video contest to fight smoking, which invited Nunavut students from Grade 7 to Grade 12 to vote for their favourite youth-made video on how to quit smoking.

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