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Federal government highlights Inuit rates in battle against TB

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami says report “echoes” its Inuit-specific strategy


The Canadian government announced a new strategy March 23 to eliminate high rates of tuberculosis in the country by focusing on high infection rates among aboriginal populations — particularly Inuit.

Released in advance of World Tuberculosis Day, March 24, the government’s “Federal Framework for Action” identifies the country’s aboriginal and foreign-born population as having the highest rates of the disease.

Rates for Inuit rank the highest among these, amounting to 400 per cent higher than Canadian-born non-aboriginals in 2012, according to the document. Aboriginal people overall (on and off-reserve) had rates 32 per cent higher.

The action plan calls for a “coordinated federal response” to combat the disease. It calls for several federal agencies to improve on TB prevention and treatment, and to work with local governments and communities to reverse infection rates.

They include:

• Health Canada’s First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, and the agency’s Health Products and Food Branch;

• Canadian Institutes of Health Research, which funds health research;

• Citizenship and Immigration Canada: to screen and treat the disease among immigrants and newcomers;

• Correctional Service Canada: to screen and treat the disease among prison inmates and staff;”

• Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada: to improve health conditions in northern communities;

• Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami agreed with the government’s collaborative approach.

In a statement released on the occasion of World Tuberculosis Day, March 24, the national Inuit organization said the federal action plan addresses “underlying risk factors” that contribute to high TB rates in Nunavut and jurisdictions where Inuit live.

These include “overcrowded housing, food security and nutrition, mental wellness and access to health care services,” ITK said in the news release.

Moreover, ITK agreed that the federal report is in line with its own strategy to combat tuberculosis in Inuit communities, which the organization released exactly one year ago — also on the occasion of World Tuberculosis Day.

“I am encouraged to see that the government’s recent report on tuberculosis echoes many of the same principles outlined in ITK’s own Inuit-specific strategy for dealing with TB,” ITK president Terry Audla said in the news release.

“It is our collective desire that we can work together collaboratively to address the root causes of the disease in an effort to prevent and control its spread so that future generations may not suffer the same risk,” Audla said.

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