StatsCan: state of Inuit health declined after 2001

One in five go hungry because they can’t afford to buy food


The nursing station, or

The nursing station, or “health centre” in Pangnirtung, which opened in 2010. Compared with the general Canadian population, Inuit in Canada are far more likely to get health care from nurses than from doctors. About 14 per cent of Inuit in Canada sought but could not gain access to health care in the year prior to the 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey. (FILE PHOTO)

Only 45 per cent of Inuit in 2012 reported they were in excellent or very good health, down from 56 per cent in 2001, Statistics Canada said in a report released Aug. 26.

In comparison, 63 per cent of the entire Canadian population reported excellent or very good health.

And 14 per cent of Inuit reported they needed health care, but couldn’t get it.

“The most common reason for not receiving this care was that it was not available in the area,” StatsCan said.

Those numbers, from the 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Health Survey, are based on self-reported data gathered by StatsCan surveyors. (See report embedded below.)

The report covers all Inuit in Canada living within the four Inuit regions and outside Inuit Nunangat, StatsCan said.

The survey also found four in 10 Inuit aged 15 or over lived in households that suffered food insecurity in the 12 months prior to the survey.

That’s much higher than the general Canadian population, where only eight per cent reported food insecurity.

And more than one in five Inuit — 22 per cent — reported going hungry because they could not afford to buy food.

Arctic residents will not be surprised that StatsCan found Inuit are more likely than other Canadian residents to receive health care from nurses rather than doctors.

StatsCan found 59 per cent of Inuit aged 15 or older had seen or talked to a medical doctor in the year prior to the survey.

But in the Canadian population as a whole, 79 per cent had seen a doctor.

And 49 per cent of Inuit consulted a nurse in the year prior to the survey, compared with only 12 per cent for the entire Canadian population.

The proportion of Inuit who were able to consult a doctor improved slightly from 2001, when only 50 per cent of Inuit reported seeing a doctor.

One piece of good news is that cigarette smoking among Inuit continues to decline.

Between 2001 and 2012, the proportion of Inuit who smoke cigarettes fell from 61 per cent to 52 per cent.

In Canada’s general population, about 16 per cent of people still smoke.

The study also found that a large proportion of Inuit — 33 per cent — did not consume alcohol in the year prior to the study.

But at the same time, 26 per cent of Inuit reported heavy drinking — defined as five or more drinks in a single occasion at least once a month.

StatsCan said those numbers have not changed significantly since 2001.

The New Democratic Party’s deputy health critic in the House of Commons, Carol Hughes, used the StatsCan report to dump on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government.

Harper’s annual Arctic tour this year ended Aug. 26.

“The ability to live a healthy life is increasingly out of reach for Canadian Inuit,” Hughes said in a statement.

“As the prime minister’s tour comes to an end, he should respond to the pressing needs in these communities and commit to addressing food insecurity and the lack of access to health care”.

Study: Inuit health: Selected findings from the 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey

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