Inuit health research and health of Aboriginal Canadians
Health Canada cut all funding for the National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO) June 30, 2012, resulting in the termination of its 31 employees. The stated rationale for the $4.4 million cut was to prevent cuts to regional programs for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit populations.
The mandate of NAHO was to improve the health of aboriginal people by addressing the unique health challenges facing each of the three populations. NAHO’s work involved research and outreach programs in fields such as suicide prevention, tobacco cessation, housing, and midwifery.
Although the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and Métis National Council were critical of NAHO, calling for its replacement by a new governance model, they were concerned about the cuts in funding for the health research organization. National Inuit Leader Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, said the loss of NAHO's Inuit centre "creates a serious void in Inuit health research and support to address Inuit health issues."
Compared with the general population, aboriginal people in Canada:
- have a lower life expectancy (by 10 years),
- are 6 times more likely to commit suicide,
- are 5 times more likely to live in poverty and/or be unemployed,
- are 3 times more likely to drop out of high school, and rarely graduate university,
- have higher levels of mercury, PCBs, and other toxins,
- have 16 times the rate of tuberculosis,
- have 3 times the rate of diabetes,
- suffer more heart disease, and
- suffer from water-borne illnesses rare in the rest of Canada, such as dysentery and shigellosis.