Addressing Inuit housing shortage will be key to eliminating TB, says study

“Alleviating the chronic housing shortage will be a key element in the elimination of TB in the Canadian Inuit Nunangat”

A view of Iqaluit, Nunavut. A door-to-door survey conducted in the city in 2011 found that overcrowded housing was often associated with latent tuberculosis infections. (File photo)

By Nunatsiaq News

If the Canadian government plans to live up to its promise to eradicate tuberculosis in Inuit communities by 2030, it must first address the severe housing shortage across the Inuit homeland.

That’s one takeaway from a new study published by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, which concludes that “in addition to strong screening and treatment programmes, alleviating the chronic housing shortage will be a key element in the elimination of TB in the Canadian Inuit Nunangat.”

Among the researchers involved with the paper is the Ottawa Hospital’s Gonzalo Alvarez, who is collaborating with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami on a project called Taima TB, which aims to help Inuit in Canada stop the transmission of tuberculosis in their communities.

In 2011, Taima TB offered door-to-door screening and treatment of TB in five areas of Iqaluit considered to be high risk, based on past active cases of the disease. During those visits by a nurse and a “TB champion” who spoke Inuktitut, a questionnaire was administered, which yielded the information that the study is based upon.

The results, based upon the answers from 261 respondents, offered further proof that TB and poverty often go hand-in-hand.

Among the respondents, most of whom were Inuit, 67 per cent had not completed high school. Nearly half had incomes of less than $20,000. Nearly a third sometimes went hungry. Seventy-seven per cent smoked tobacco and 62 per cent smoked marijuana. And three-quarters lived in overcrowded conditions.

All of these factors have been found to be associated with latent TB infections.

What’s more, when the report’s authors controlled for most of these factors, they found that increasing age, overcrowded housing and Inuit ethnicity by themselves were associated with latent TB infections.

The report notes that a housing study, conducted at the same time, found that five per cent of Iqaluit’s population at the time—about 380 people—”was in immediate need of housing and was living temporarily in another person’s dwelling.”

About three in 10 dwellings, meanwhile, housed temporary residents without a home in the 12 months prior to that survey.

As well, many houses in Nunavut are in bad shape. Nearly half of the houses in Nunavut, at the time of the study, were either crowded, in need of major repairs, or both.

The TB study found that Inuit ethnicity is the strongest determinant of having a latent tuberculosis infection, with Inuit having two to three times the risk as Canadian-born non-Indigenous people. Another study in Greenland drew similar conclusions.

“Those tentative findings may suggest a genetic susceptibility to TB among Inuit and may partly help to explain the high rates of TB in these regions,” the report states.

“At the turn of the century, some of the highest rates of TB ever recorded were noted among the Inuit. It is possible that because Inuit only came in contact with Europeans in the past century, they have not developed genetic mechanisms necessary to protect them against TB disease.

“Evidence exists that people may have genetic signatures that predispose them to develop active TB disease. We agree with other researchers that further study in this area is warranted.”

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(16) Comments:

  1. Posted by Consistency on

    Ya another study telling us what we already know… not that i have any faith in the Feds to step up and assist with this issue.
    Lack of Housing is one of the root causes to so many issues from Health to Education to Employment to Food security.

    • Posted by SJ on

      Consistency, I agree with you that this Territory needs more housing. It’s not uncommon to see 7-10 people living in a 2 or 3 bed unit. Something needs to change. I realize that building housing up here is a huge cost and undertaking. I don’t know if the GN has ever looked at the possibility of using “sea can” houses. Popular down South, and much cheaper to manufacture. I will say this though, at some point if the Territory wants more houses they’re going to need to start taking better care of those houses. The majority of folks here rent these houses and unfortunately it’s fairly common to see this houses treated like absolute garbage (I’ve seen this first hand many times). Community members (tenants) need to start taking a little more pride in their homes. I’d be interested to see what the local housing budgets run for unit repairs (more specifically: windows, holes in the walls, stains from spit, and dog urine/feces).

      • Posted by Consistency on

        I think small houses like seacan houses (2 bedroom size) need to be made available for low costs. also i think communities should create community plans that provide areas where families can have houses close together so if a family chose they can will be close to help each other out or if young families want to do things differently they can.
        Also ability to add on to houses should be possible at not a large cost, so if you start in a 2 bedroom but then have 4 kids you can “easily” add on another room or 2.
        NO MORE multi-plexes, no one likes them. and there is no yard space for sheds and equipment.

        • Posted by WHAT ELSE? on

          WOW, well Consistency what else can we do for you? Perhaps a swimming pool and indoor playground? How about this: Get an education, even if that means you have to leave Nunavut for awhile to do so. Get a good job, purchase or build a home for yourself. Get married. Then have children, and not more than you can provide for financially, emotionally. Encourage your children to do the same. That will solve your housing issues. Why do you always think the government will be the answer?

          • Posted by Monica Connolly on

            Being a responsible, employed person will not get you housing if there are no rental units available and only 19 building lots a year available for building your own house!

          • Posted by Consistency on

            I did leave for an education, came back home, have a good job, house and kids that I can support. However I was fortunate that I also grew up in a house that was not overcrowded, but that is not the case with all my family or friends. And just because I worked hard for what I have does not mean I can not recognize that there are others that have not been given the same chances (a bed I didn’t have to share, a room that only had 2 or 3 kids in it, not a room with 2 adults and 2 or 3 kids. This allowed me to get full consistent nights sleep.)
            Also even with leaving for education and having a good Job I still would not have my house if it wasn’t for Housing programs the GN had implemented and I would need to be in GN run housing.

    • Posted by Israel McArthur on

      Getting very tired of this constant line – the Feds need to step up, the Feds need to blah blah. No the Feds absolutely do not.

      Housing is not a federal responsibility. What needs to happen is the people and government of Nunavut need to get their act together and fix what is their responsibility, and let the Feds focus on what is the responsibility of the Feds. Housing is territorial. Speak to our elected territorial representatives and ask them what their plan is to raise more money, rather than seeking more handouts from the Canadian taxpayer. Nunavut is essentially a rentier economy, and that needs to change, so what are the territorial representatives who we elect planning on doing to move us from this condition?

      As a start on the housing issue, I would like to see the territorial government finance responsible family planning. Perhaps discouraging couples on income assistance, in communities with little to no economic opportunity, from having 6-7 kids with no plan of how to get the money to clothe and feed and them would be a good first start? Yes, I know that kids are worth money, but it is more than a little irresponsible to have kids when you have no job, no housing, and no plan. This obviously wouldn’t raise us any money, but it would cut down on the demand for housing, and improve health outcomes.

      • Posted by No Moniker on

        Great comment, very challenging stuff. It’s unfortunate that the discussion that needs to be had around family planning fails to gain much or any traction in public discourse. Maybe Nunavut’s intelligentsia should train their focus on real issues like this. Of course that’s unlikely to happen. It’s easier and much more popular to attack windmills and boogeymen.

      • Posted by Kids are More than Money on

        Each kid is worth about $35,000 per year to the GN in additional transfer payments from Ottawa.

        A kid is worth almost $8,000 per year in Federal Child Benefits to a single parent earning $10,000 per year.

        Having a kid also gives you status, recognition, and purpose.

        Without kids you will die of old age before you get into Social Housing in Nunavut.

        The babies who are having babies did not make the system. But they are smart enough to have figured out how it works and practical enough to do what they have to.

        • Posted by Israel MacArthur on

          Indeed, everyone understands the value of kids when receiving government benefits. However, you will not convince me that it is responsible behaviour to have children that you cannot afford to feed, clothe or house.

          Status? That is culturally dependent, depends on your viewpoint. I’ll tell you right now that parents who have kids that they can’t properly look after get no status in my world, but they do get a healthy dose of contempt.

          I stick with my belief that free and widely available planning education and materials would go a long way towards help in the housing crisis – in the long term of course.

      • Posted by Consistency on

        Israel McArthur The Feds were the ones that said housing would be provided, when they bulldozed Igloo’s and forced families into communities, and yes you may say this was a long time ago… oh wait there are still family members that were part of that and it was never properly realized.
        And besides that what is wrong with helping those that need it. If no one has ever helped you just because it was the right thing to do I am sorry for that.

        • Posted by Israel MacArthur on

          I’ve heard that said, though I’ve never seen the documentation to support it, but for the sake of argument we’ll say it is accurate, what are the details of the agreement? That leads to the next logical question – for how many generations are the feds responsible? We are getting into the grand-kids and great grand-kids of those who were moved. Is this federal government responsibility meant to carry on for generations?

          We have far too much learned-helplessness in Nunavut, and the GN is not stepping up to take on its responsibility for housing. This needs to change before we can really improve. However, the GN needs be able to raise more money than what they get as transfer payments, and I truly feel for them trying to figure out how to do that in an economically under-performing territory with small, yet rapidly growing population – it is a nightmare for them.

        • Posted by Reality on

          “Bulldozed igloos”? Oh my, the hyperbole. Nobody ever offered an unending supply of houses to multiple generations in perpetuity. Igloos are temporary housing and melt all on their own, nobody had to destroy any. If Igloos were better, go back to them! Outsider can’t look after you forever. If you don’t like communities, move out of them. Show those non-inuit how much better igloos are, and how mean and cruel they were to offer year-round housing at little or no cost.

  2. Posted by TB on

    to all nursing facilities, hospitals, social services and youth protection in the areas where housing is a shortage but many Inuit has contacted this KILLER DISEASE know as TB. The best solution to help the Inuit with Canada to help the spreading of this fatal disease is: stop going into peoples cramped houses and or apartments (10-15 people including baby infants and minor children) to smoke marijuana and or hashish while someone has TB. Once he/she/it begins an uncontrollable cough while smoking drugs, than everyone in this cramped quarters could and will keep spreading this fatal diseases to everyone else. I have seen infants and little children in the Nursing Station where they are kept in the nursing rooms of the Nursing Station while being given antibiotics to help cure their sleeping TB or active TB. It is embarrassing to see irresponsible single parents allowing their babies and or infants to catch this deadly disease. More babies and children should be taken away fro irresponsible selfish immature parents for endangering thier baby or childs life. It is time to stop depending on marijuana and hashish and start thinking and loving your babies and children. It is time to be a Grown Up Adult.

  3. Posted by Tommy on


  4. Posted by Tommy on

    Trash talking! Opinionated assholes. They walk the talk and that’s about it. They can never understand what Nunavutmiut are going through, what they have endured from, how they supposedly should live, and always looked down upon, frowned upon. Nunavutmiut are always judged for failing to adhere to the ideologies of monetary values. The values Nunavutmiut surrendered and adhered to. What more do you want Nunavutmiut to do? Hypocrites! That’s all they are.

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