Damning report reveals desperate state of health in Nunavik
Nunavik residents who survive infancy live 15 years less than other Quebeckers
As the Parti Québécois government moves ahead with its “Nord pour tous” development scheme for northern Quebec, a government-produced presentation reveals the desperate state of population health in the province’s northern regions.
This presentation, prepared in 2012 for Quebec’s public health department and obtained by Nunatsiaq News, shows that health conditions in Nunavik are crying out for improvement.
The health and living conditions of Nunavik’s 11,000 residents lags behind those of everyone else in Quebec, no matter where they live.
Its many graphs, which use recent statistics to compare Nunavik to nine other regions in northern Quebec as well as to Quebec in general, reveals that many Nunavimmiut are doomed to shorter and harder lives than all others in Quebec.
The French-only presentation, called the La santé de la population des communautés du territoire du Plan Nord (The health of the residents of communities under Plan Nord), reveals that Nunavik’s young residents can expect to endure the poorest health and life-chances in Quebec, from birth onwards.
The graphs show, among other things, that more Nunavik babies suffer from low birth weight and prematurity than other babies in Quebec.
And five times more infants than elsewhere in Quebec die before the end of their first year.
And Nunavik men and women who survive infancy have a life expectancy that is 15 years lower than other Quebecers.
During their lifetime, they’re also seven times more likely than other Quebecers to suffer accidents and three times more likely to end up in hospital as a result.
Hospitalization rates for Nunavimmiut due to respiratory illnesses are eight times higher than for other Quebecers.
Other graphs show the percentage of people who smoke is three times higher in Nunavik, excessive drinking is also much more frequent in Nunavik and obesity is twice as common in Nunavik than elsewhere in Quebec.
Diabetes and high blood pressure rates among Nunavimmiut, who formerly had low rates of diabetes and heart disease, now equal those found elsewhere in Quebec, while cancer cancer rates are double that of the rest of the province.
Even Nunavik youth are more subject to health problems: a striking graphs shows the incidence of reportable infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis or sexually transmitted infections among the 15 to 19 age group, is more than 10 times higher than for other Quebec youth.
In Nunavik, suicide is also 10 times more frequent than in the rest of Quebec, with 60 per cent of these suicide deaths involving youth 15 to 24.
Amidst all this, Nunavik women continue to give birth at a much younger age than in the rest of Quebec, the presentation’s graphs show.
The average age of Nunavik mothers is about five years younger than elsewhere in Quebec.
Teenage pregnancies are also about 12 times more common in Nunavik than in Quebec overall, the presentation shows, and teenage pregnancies are more than twice as common in Nunavik than in all of Quebec’s other northern regions.
And Nunavik women go on to have more babies than women do in other regions — more than three children per woman.
In Quebec as a whole, only 15 per cent of families have three or more children at home, but in Nunavik more than 40 per cent have more than three children at home.
This would be great if everyone could count on a good standard of living, but, judging from a series of graphs in the presentation, that doesn’t appear to be the case.
Four in 10 families end up being led by single parents, with one in four living in poverty.
The school drop-out rate of 80 per cent remains the worst in Quebec.
More Nunavik residents are also likely to live in homes needing repairs: the proportion of homes in need of repairs — one in three, is more than three times higher than in the rest of Quebec.