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1.  Ethnic and Regional Differences in Prevalence and Correlates of Chronic Diseases and Risk Factors in Northern Canada 
Preventing Chronic Disease  2009;7(1):A13.
We investigated ethnic and geographic variations in major chronic diseases and risk factors in northern Canada, an area that is undergoing rapid changes in its social, cultural, and physical environments.
Self-report data were obtained from the population-based Canadian Community Health Survey in 2000-2001 and 2005-2006 for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal respondents from the 3 regions of northern Canada: Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. Crude prevalence estimates, adjusted odds ratios (AORs), and confidence intervals were calculated for multiple chronic diseases and risk factors.
The percentage of Aboriginal respondents who reported having any chronic health condition increased between the 2 cycles of data collection, but did not change for non-Aboriginal respondents. AORs for heart disease, arthritis, and asthma varied by ethnicity or region. AORs for overweight, obesity, daily smoking, regular and binge drinking, and infrequent physical/leisure activity were also substantially different for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal respondents or among respondents from the 3 northern regions.
The changing profile of health in northern Canada suggests a need for action on health policy about the delivery of community-based primary prevention interventions and further research about the determinants of health and health care use.
PMCID: PMC2811508  PMID: 20040228
2.  Iron deficiency anemia among children: Addressing a global public health problem within a Canadian context 
Paediatrics & Child Health  2005;10(10):597-601.
Despite current Canadian pre- and perinatal nutrition programs, the prevalence of both iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia (IDA) is very high among young Aboriginal children from Canada’s remote north. The major risk factors for IDA include prolonged consumption of evaporated cow’s milk, chronic infection and prolonged exclusive breastfeeding. In the present article, the authors discuss IDA as a significant public health problem in Canadian Aboriginal communities. Whereas the prevalence of IDA in Canadian children is between 3.5% and 10.5% in the general population, in two Northern Ontario First Nations communities and one Inuit community, the anemia rate was 36%, with 56% having depleted iron stores. Traditional methods of preventing IDA, including targeted fortification, dietary diversification and supplementation, have not solved the problem. The authors’ research group at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario, conceived of the strategy of ‘home fortification’ with ‘Sprinkles’ – single-dose sachets containing micronutrients in a powder form, which are easily sprinkled onto any foods prepared in the household. In Sprinkles, the iron (ferrous fumarate) is encapsulated within a thin lipid layer to prevent the iron from interacting with food. Sprinkles have been shown to be efficacious in the treatment of anemia in many developing countries. Their use in Aboriginal communities to treat and prevent anemia is described in the present paper. The authors believe that children in Aboriginal communities across Canada would potentially benefit if Sprinkles were incorporated into Health Canada’s current distribution system, in combination with a social marketing strategy to encourage their use.
PMCID: PMC2722615  PMID: 19668671
Aboriginal children; Anemia; Iron deficiency; Iron supplement; Sprinkles
3.  The Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health (SEARCH): study protocol 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:287.
Aboriginal Australians have a life expectancy more than ten years less than that of non-Aboriginal Australians, reflecting their disproportionate burden of both communicable and non-communicable disease throughout the lifespan. Little is known about the health and health trajectories of Aboriginal children and, although the majority of Aboriginal people live in urban areas, data are particularly sparse in relation to children living in urban areas.
The Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health (SEARCH) is a cohort study of Aboriginal children aged 0-17 years, from urban and large regional centers in New South Wales, Australia. SEARCH focuses on Aboriginal community identified health priorities of: injury; otitis media; vaccine-preventable conditions; mental health problems; developmental delay; obesity; and risk factors for chronic disease. Parents/caregivers and their children are invited to participate in SEARCH at the time of presentation to one of the four participating Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations at Mount Druitt, Campbelltown, Wagga Wagga and Newcastle. Questionnaire data are obtained from parents/caregivers and children, along with signed permission for follow-up through repeat data collection and data linkage. All children have their height, weight, waist circumference and blood pressure measured and complete audiometry, otoscopy/pneumatic otoscopy and tympanometry. Children aged 1-7 years have speech and language assessed and their parents/caregivers complete the Parental Evaluation of Developmental Status. The Study aims to recruit 1700 children by the end of 2010 and to secure resources for long term follow up. From November 2008 to March 2010, 1010 children had joined the study. From those 446 children with complete data entry, participating children ranged in age from 2 weeks to 17 years old, with 144 aged 0-3, 147 aged 4-7, 75 aged 8-10 and 79 aged 11-17. 55% were male and 45% female.
SEARCH is built on strong community partnerships, under Aboriginal leadership, and addresses community priorities relating to a number of under-researched areas. SEARCH will provide a unique long-term resource to investigate the causes and trajectories of health and illness in urban Aboriginal children and to identify potential targets for interventions to improve health.
PMCID: PMC2896939  PMID: 20507632
4.  Access to health care among status Aboriginal people with chronic kidney disease 
Ethnic disparities in access to health care and health outcomes are well documented. It is unclear whether similar differences exist between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people with chronic kidney disease in Canada. We determined whether access to care differed between status Aboriginal people (Aboriginal people registered under the federal Indian Act) and non-Aboriginal people with chronic kidney disease.
We identified 106 511 non-Aboriginal and 1182 Aboriginal patients with chronic kidney disease (estimated glomerular filtration rate less than 60 mL/min/1.73 m2). We compared outcomes, including hospital admissions, that may have been preventable with appropriate outpatient care (ambulatory-care–sensitive conditions) as well as use of specialist services, including visits to nephrologists and general internists.
Aboriginal people were almost twice as likely as non-Aboriginal people to be admitted to hospital for an ambulatory-care–sensitive condition (rate ratio 1.77, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.46–2.13). Aboriginal people with severe chronic kidney disease (estimated glomerular filtration rate < 30 mL/min/1.73 m2) were 43% less likely than non-Aboriginal people with severe chronic kidney disease to visit a nephrologist (hazard ratio 0.57, 95% CI 0.39–0.83). There was no difference in the likelihood of visiting a general internist (hazard ratio 1.00, 95% CI 0.83–1.21).
Increased rates of hospital admissions for ambulatory-care–sensitive conditions and a reduced likelihood of nephrology visits suggest potential inequities in care among status Aboriginal people with chronic kidney disease. The extent to which this may contribute to the higher rate of kidney failure in this population requires further exploration.
PMCID: PMC2572655  PMID: 18981441
5.  Knowledge, attitudes and other factors associated with assessment of tobacco smoking among pregnant Aboriginal women by health care providers: a cross-sectional survey 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:165.
As with many Indigenous peoples, smoking rates among Aboriginal Australians are considerably higher than those of the non-Indigenous population. Approximately 50% of Indigenous women smoke during pregnancy, a time when women are more motivated to quit. Antenatal care providers are potentially important change agents for reducing the harms associated with smoking, yet little is known about their knowledge, attitudes or skills, or the factors associated with providing smoking cessation advice.
This paper aimed to explore the knowledge and attitudes of health care providers caring for pregnant Australian Aboriginal women with regard to smoking risks and cessation; and to identify factors associated with self-reported assessment of smoking. A cross-sectional survey was undertaken with 127 staff providing antenatal care to Aboriginal women from two jurisdictions: the Northern Territory and New South Wales, Australia. Measures included respondents' estimate of the prevalence of smoking among pregnant women; optimal and actual assessment of smoking status; knowledge of risks associated with antenatal smoking; knowledge of smoking cessation; attitudes to providing cessation advice to pregnant women; and perceived barriers and motivators for cessation for pregnant women.
The median provider estimate of the smoking prevalence was 69% (95%CI: 60,70). The majority of respondents considered assessment of smoking status to be integral to antenatal care and a professional responsibility. Most (79%) indicated that they assess smoking status in 100% of clients. Knowledge of risks was generally good, but knowledge of cessation was poor. Factors independently associated with assessing smoking status among all women were: employer service type (p = 0.025); cessation knowledge score (p = 0.011); and disagreeing with the statement that giving advice is not worth it given the low level of success (p = 0.011).
Addressing knowledge of smoking risks and cessation counselling is a priority and should improve both confidence and ability, and increase the frequency and effectiveness of counselling. The health system must provide supports to providers through appropriate policy and resourcing, to enable them to address this issue.
PMCID: PMC3311138  PMID: 22397580
6.  Prevalence of asthma and risk factors for asthma-like symptoms in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children in the northern territories of Canada 
Few studies have investigated the prevalence and risk factors of asthma in Canadian Aboriginal children.
To determine the prevalence of asthma and asthma-like symptoms, as well as the risk factors for asthma-like symptoms, in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children living in the northern territories of Canada.
Data on 2404 children, aged between 0 and 11 years, who participated in the North component of the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth were used in the present study. A child was considered to have an asthma-like symptom if there was a report of ever having had asthma, asthma attacks or wheeze in the past 12 months.
After excluding 59 children with missing information about race, 1399 children (59.7%) were of Aboriginal ancestry. The prevalence of asthma was significantly lower (P<0.05) in Aboriginal children (5.7%) than non-Aboriginal children (10.0%), while the prevalence of wheeze was similar between Aboriginal (15.0%) and non-Aboriginal (14.5%) children. In Aboriginal children, infants and toddlers had a significantly greater prevalence of asthma-like symptoms (30.0%) than preschool-aged children (21.5%) and school-aged children (11.5%). Childhood allergy and a mother’s daily smoking habit were significant risk factors for asthma-like symptoms in both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children. In addition, infants and toddlers were at increased risk of asthma-like symptoms in Aboriginal children. In analyses restricted to specific outcomes, a mother’s daily smoking habit was a significant risk factor for current wheeze in Aboriginal children and for ever having had asthma in non-Aboriginal children.
Asthma prevalence appears to be lower in Aboriginal children than in non-Aboriginal children. The association between daily maternal smoking and asthma-like symptoms, which has been mainly reported for children living in urban areas, was observed in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children living in northern and remote communities in Canada.
PMCID: PMC2677938  PMID: 18437256
Aboriginals; Asthma; Children; Remote area; Risk factors; Smoking
7.  Parent-of-origin effect in multiple sclerosis 
Neurology  2009;73(8):602-605.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex neurologic disease with a striking geographical distribution. In Canada, prevalence is high in Caucasians of Northern European ancestry and uncommon in North American Aboriginals, many of whom now have Caucasian admixture.
The population-based Canadian Collaborative Project on the Genetic Susceptibility to MS provided the characteristics of 58 individuals with 1 Caucasian and 1 North American Aboriginal parent from a database of 30,000 MS index cases.
We found that MS index cases with a Caucasian mother and a North American Aboriginal father had a higher sib recurrence risk and greater F:M sex ratio (p = 0.043) than patients with a North American Aboriginal mother and Caucasian father.
Maternal parent-of-origin effects in multiple sclerosis disease etiology previously seen in studies of half-siblings and avuncular pairs are also seen in Caucasian-North American Aboriginal admixture matings and warrant further investigation. A differential influence of maternal risk transmission on the sex ratio of affected offspring is implied. The method of analysis used may have broader implications for detection of parent-of-origin effects in admixture cohorts.
= Canadian Collaborative Project on Genetic Susceptibility to Multiple Sclerosis;
= multiple sclerosis.
PMCID: PMC2830902  PMID: 19515994
8.  The determinants of chronic bronchitis in Aboriginal children and youth 
There is limited knowledge concerning chronic bronchitis (CB) in Canadian Aboriginal peoples.
To determine the prevalence (crude and adjusted) of CB and its associated risk factors in Canadian Aboriginal children and youth six to 14 years of age.
Data from the cross-sectional Aboriginal Peoples Survey were analyzed in the present study. Logistic regression analysis was used to determine risk factors influencing the prevalence of CB among Aboriginal children and youth. The balanced repeated replication method was used to compute standard errors of regression coefficients to account for clustering inherent in the study design. The outcome of interest was based on the question: “Have you been told by a doctor, nurse or other health professional that you have chronic bronchitis?” Demographics, environment and population characteristics (predisposing and enabling resources) were tested for an association with CB.
The prevalence of CB was 3.1% for boys and 2.8% for girls. Other significant risk factors of CB were age (OR 1.38 [95% CI 1.24 to 1.52] for 12 to 14 year olds versus six to eight year olds), income (OR 2.28 [95% CI 2.02 to 2.59] for income category <$25,000/year versus ≥$85,000/year), allergies (OR 1.96 [95% CI 1.78 to 2.16] for having allergies versus no allergies), asthma (OR 7.61 [ 95% CI 6.91 to 8.37] for having asthma versus no asthma) and location of residence (rural/urban and geographical location). A significant two-way interaction between sex and body mass index indicated that the relationship between the prevalence of CB and body mass index was modified by sex.
The prevalence of CB was related to well-known risk factors among adults, including older age and lower annual income.
PMCID: PMC3603768  PMID: 23248806
Aboriginal children and youth; BRR; Chronic bronchitis; Complex survey
9.  Climate Change, Health, and Vulnerability in Canadian Northern Aboriginal Communities 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2006;114(12):1964-1970.
Canada has recognized that Aboriginal and northern communities in the country face unique challenges and that there is a need to expand the assessment of vulnerabilities to climate change to include these communities. Evidence suggests that Canada’s North is already experiencing significant changes in its climate—changes that are having negative impacts on the lives of Aboriginal people living in these regions. Research on climate change and health impacts in northern Canada thus far has brought together Aboriginal community members, government representatives, and researchers and is charting new territory.
Methods and Results
In this article we review experiences from two projects that have taken a community-based dialogue approach to identifying and assessing the effects of and vulnerability to climate change and the impact on the health in two Inuit regions of the Canadian Arctic.
The results of the two case projects that we present argue for a multi-stakeholder, participatory framework for assessment that supports the necessary analysis, understanding, and enhancement of capabilities of local areas to respond and adapt to the health impacts at the local level.
PMCID: PMC1764172  PMID: 17185292
Aboriginal; adaptive capacity; Arctic; climate change; Inuit; vulnerability
10.  A research review: exploring the health of Canada's Aboriginal youth 
International Journal of Circumpolar Health  2012;71:10.3402/ijch.v71i0.18497.
To compare the current state of health research on Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth in Canada.
A search of published academic literature on Canadian Aboriginal youth health, including a comprehensive review of both non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal youth research, was conducted using MEDLINE and summarized.
A MEDLINE search was conducted for articles published over a 10-year period (2000–2010). The search was limited to research articles pertaining to Canadian youth, using various synonyms for “Canada,” “youth,” and “Aboriginal.” Each article was coded according to 4 broad categories: Aboriginal identity, geographic location, research topic (health determinants, health status, health care), and the 12 key determinants of health proposed by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
Of the 117 articles reviewed, only 34 pertained to Aboriginal youth, while the remaining 83 pertained to non-Aboriginal youth. The results revealed major discrepancies within the current body of research with respect to the geographic representation of Aboriginal youth, with several provinces missing from the literature, including the northern territories. Furthermore, the current research is not reflective of the demographic composition of Aboriginal youth, with an under-representation of Métis and urban Aboriginal youth. Health status of Aboriginal youth has received the most attention, appearing in 79% of the studies reviewed compared with 57% of the non-Aboriginal studies. The number of studies that focus on health determinants and health care is comparable for both groups, with the former accounting for 62 and 64% and the latter comprising 26 and 19% of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal studies, respectively. However, this review reveals several differences with respect to specific focus on health determinants between the two populations. In non-Aboriginal youth studies, all the 12 key determinants of health of PHAC are explored, whereas in Aboriginal youth studies the health profile remains incomplete and several key determinants and health indicators are neglected.
The current studies are not reflective of the demographic and geographic profiles of Aboriginal youth in Canada, and they have also failed to provide a comprehensive examination of their unique health needs and concerns compared with studies on non-Aboriginal youth.
PMCID: PMC3427595  PMID: 22973569
Aboriginal people; health status; determinants of health; youth
11.  Appropriateness of current thresholds for obesity-related measures among Aboriginal people 
Despite the high prevalence of obesity and diabetes in the Canadian Aboriginal population, it is unknown whether the current thresholds for body mass index and waist circumference derived from white populations are appropriate for Aboriginal people. We compared the risk of cardiovascular disease among Canadian Aboriginal and European populations using the current thresholds for body mass index and waist circumference.
Healthy Aboriginal (n = 195) and European (n = 201) participants (matched for sex and body mass index range) were assessed for demographic characteristics, lifestyle factors, total and central adiposity and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Among Aboriginal and European participants, we compared the relation between body mass index and each of the following 3 factors: percent body fat, central adiposity and cardiovascular disease risk factors. We also compared the relation between waist circumference and the same 3 factors.
The use of body mass index underestimated percent body fat by 1.3% among Aboriginal participants compared with European participants (p = 0.025). The use of waist circumference overestimated abdominal adipose tissue by 26.7 cm2 among Aboriginal participants compared with European participants (p = 0.007). However, there was no difference in how waist circumference estimated subcutaneous abdominal and visceral adipose tissue among the 2 groups. At the same body mass index and waist circumference, we observed no differences in the majority of cardiovascular disease risk factors among Aboriginal and European participants. The prevalence of dyslipidemia, hypertension, impaired fasting glucose and metabolic syndrome was similar among participants in the 2 groups after adjustment for body mass index, waist circumference, age and sex.
We found no difference in the relation between body mass index and risk of cardiovascular disease between men and women of Aboriginal and European descent. We also found no difference between waist circumference and cardiovascular disease risk among these groups. These data support the use of current anthropometric thresholds in the Canadian Aboriginal population.
PMCID: PMC2096496  PMID: 18056598
12.  Dietary intake of vitamin D in a northern Canadian Dené First Nation community 
International Journal of Circumpolar Health  2013;72:10.3402/ijch.v72i0.20723.
Increased awareness of the wide spectrum of activity of vitamin D has focused interest on its role in the health of Canada's Aboriginal peoples, who bear a high burden of both infectious and chronic disease. Cutaneous vitamin D synthesis is limited at northern latitudes, and the transition from nutrient-dense traditional to nutrient-poor market foods has left many Canadian Aboriginal populations food insecure and nutritionally vulnerable.
The study was undertaken to determine the level of dietary vitamin D in a northern Canadian Aboriginal (Dené) community and to determine the primary food sources of vitamin D.
Cross-sectional study.
Dietary vitamin D intakes of 46 adult Dené men and women were assessed using a food frequency questionnaire and compared across age, gender, season and body mass index. The adequacy of dietary vitamin D intake was assessed using the 2007 Adequate Intake (AI) and the 2011 Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) values for Dietary Reference Intake (DRI).
Mean daily vitamin D intake was 271.4 IU in winter and 298.3 IU in summer. Forty percent and 47.8% of participants met the vitamin D 1997 AI values in winter and summer, respectively; this dropped to 11.1 and 13.0% in winter and summer using 2011 RDA values. Supplements, milk, and local fish were positively associated with adequate vitamin D intake. Milk and local fish were the major dietary sources of vitamin D.
Dietary intake of vitamin D in the study population was low. Only 2 food sources, fluid milk and fish, provided the majority of dietary vitamin D. Addressing low vitamin D intake in this population requires action aimed at food insecurity present in northern Aboriginal populations.
PMCID: PMC3752286  PMID: 23984265
vitamin D; First Nations; indigenous; Aboriginal; diet; nutrition; food security
13.  A Guide for Health Professionals Working with Aboriginal Peoples: Executive Summary 
to provide Canadian health professionals with a network of information and recommendations regarding Aboriginal health.
health professionals working with Aboriginal individuals and communities in the area of women’s health care.
improved health status of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
Appropriateness and accessibility of women’s health services for Aboriginal peoples.
Improved communication and clinical skills of health professionals in the area of Aboriginal health.
Improved quality of relationship between health professionals and Aboriginal individuals and communities.
Improved quality of relationship between health care professionals and Aboriginal individuals and communities.
recommendations are based on expert opinion and a review of the literature. Published references were identified by a Medline search of all review articles, randomized clinical control trials, meta-analyses, and practice guidelines from 1966 to February 1999, using the MeSH headings “Indians, North American or Eskimos” and “Health.”* Subsequently published articles were brought to the attention of the authors in the process of writing and reviewing the document. Ancillary and unpublished references were recommended by members of the SOGC Aboriginal Health Issues Committee and the panel of expert reviewers.
information collected was reviewed by the principal author. The social, cultural, political, and historic context of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, systemic barriers regarding the publication of information by Aboriginal authors, the diversity of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, and the need for a culturally appropriate and balanced presentation were carefully considered in addition to more traditional scientific evaluation. The majority of information collected consisted of descriptive health and social information and such evaluation tools as the evidence guidelines of the Canadian Task Force on the Periodic Health exam were not appropriate.
Benefits, costs, and harms
utilization of the information and recommendations by Canadian health professionals will enhance understanding, communication, and clinical skills in the area of Aboriginal health. The resulting enhancement of collaborative relationships between Aboriginal peoples and their women’s health providers may contribute to health services that are more appropriate, effective, efficient, and accessible for Aboriginal peoples in Canada. The educational process may require an initial investment of time from the health professional.
Recommendations were grouped according to four themes: sociocultural context, health concerns, cross-cultural understanding, and Aboriginal health resources. Health professionals are encouraged to learn the appropriate names, demographics, and traditional geographic territories and language groups of the various Aboriginal groups in Canada. In addition, sensitivity to the impact of colonization and current socioeconomic challenges to the health status of Aboriginal peoples is warranted. Health services for Aboriginal peoples should take place as close to home as possible. Governmental obligations and policies regarding determination are recognized. With respect to health concerns, holistic definitions of health, based on Aboriginal perspectives, are put forward. Aboriginal peoples continue to experience a disproportionate burden of health problems. Health professionals are encouraged to become familiar with several key areas of morbidity and mortality. Relationships between Aboriginal peoples and their care providers need to be based on a foundation of mutual respect. Gaps and barriers in the current health care system for Aboriginal peoples are identified. Health professionals are encouraged to work with Aboriginal individuals and communities to address these gaps and barriers. Aboriginal peoples require culturally appropriate health care, including treatment in their own languages when possible. This may require interpreters or Aboriginal health advocates. Health professionals are encouraged to recognize the importance of family and community roles, and to respect traditional medicines and healers. Health professionals can develop their sensitivities towards Aboriginal peoples by participating in workshops, making use of educational resources, and by spending time with Aboriginal peoples in their communities. Aboriginal communities and health professionals are encouraged to support community-based, community-directed health services and health research for Aboriginal peoples. In addition, the education of more Aboriginal health professionals is essential. The need for a preventative approach to health programming in Aboriginal communities is stressed.
recommendations were reviewed and revised by the SOGC Aboriginal Health Issues Committee, a panel of expert reviewers, and the SOGC Council. In addition, this document was also reviewed and supported by the Assembly of First Nations, Canadian Institute of Child Health, Canadian Paediatric Society, College of Family Physicians of Canada, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, Federation of Medical Women of Canada, Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, Metis National Council, National Indian and Inuit Community Health Representatives Organization, and Pauktuutit Inuit Women’s Association.
Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada.
PMCID: PMC3653835  PMID: 23682204 CAMSID: cams2752
14.  Adapting online learning for Canada's Northern public health workforce 
International Journal of Circumpolar Health  2013;72:10.3402/ijch.v72i0.21345.
Canada's North is a diverse, sparsely populated land, where inequalities and public health issues are evident, particularly for Aboriginal people. The Northern public health workforce is a unique mix of professional and paraprofessional workers. Few have formal public health education. From 2009 to 2012, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) collaborated with a Northern Advisory Group to develop and implement a strategy to strengthen public health capacity in Canada's 3 northern territories. Access to relevant, effective continuing education was identified as a key issue. Challenges include diverse educational and cultural backgrounds of public health workers, geographical isolation and variable technological infrastructure across the north.
PHAC's Skills Online program offers Internet-based continuing education modules for public health professionals. In partnership with the Northern Advisory Group, PHAC conducted 3 pilots between 2008 and 2012 to assess the appropriateness of the Skills Online program for Northern/Aboriginal public health workers. Module content and delivery modalities were adapted for the pilots. Adaptations included adding Inuit and Northern public health examples and using video and teleconference discussions to augment the online self-study component.
Findings from the pilots were informative and similar to those from previous Skills Online pilots with learners in developing countries. Online learning is effective in bridging the geographical barriers in remote locations. Incorporating content on Northern and Aboriginal health issues facilitates engagement in learning. Employer support facilitates the recruitment and retention of learners in an online program. Facilitator assets included experience as a public health professional from the north, and flexibility to use modified approaches to support and measure knowledge acquisition and application, especially for First Nations, Inuit and Metis learners.
Results demonstrate that appropriate adaptations to online professional development can provide practical, accessible means for a wide range of Northern/Aboriginal public health workers to acquire core competencies for public health.
PMCID: PMC3749850  PMID: 23971012
e-learning; professional development; continuing education; core competencies for public health; Skills Online; paraprofessional; north or northern; Aboriginal
15.  Providing culturally appropriate mental health first aid to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander adolescent: development of expert consensus guidelines 
It is estimated that the prevalence of mental illness is higher in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents compared to non-Aboriginal adolescents. Despite this, only a small proportion of Aboriginal youth have contact with mental health services, possibly due to factors such as remoteness, language barriers, affordability and cultural sensitivity issues. This research aimed to develop culturally appropriate guidelines for anyone who is providing first aid to an Australian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander adolescent who is experiencing a mental health crisis or developing a mental illness.
A panel of Australian Aboriginal people who are experts in Aboriginal youth mental health, participated in a Delphi study investigating how members of the public can be culturally appropriate when helping an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander adolescent with mental health problems. The panel varied in size across the three sequential rounds, from 37–41 participants. Panellists were presented with statements about cultural considerations and communication strategies via online questionnaires and were encouraged to suggest additional content. All statements endorsed as either Essential or Important by ≥ 90% of panel members were written into a guideline document. To assess the panel members’ satisfaction with the research method, participants were invited to provide their feedback after the final survey.
From a total of 304 statements shown to the panel of experts, 194 statements were endorsed. The methodology was found to be useful and appropriate by the panellists.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Youth mental health experts were able to reach consensus about what the appropriate communication strategies for providing mental health first aid to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescent. These outcomes will help ensure that the community provides the best possible support to Aboriginal adolescents who are developing mental illnesses or are in a mental health crisis.
PMCID: PMC3922159  PMID: 24467923
Aboriginal; Torres Strait Islander; Adolescent; Youth; Mental illness; Mental health; Communication; Delphi method; Expert consensus; Community guidelines
16.  Assessing health centre systems for guiding improvement in diabetes care 
Aboriginal people in Australia experience the highest prevalence of diabetes in the country, an excess of preventable complications and early death. There is increasing evidence demonstrating the importance of healthcare systems for improvement of chronic illness care. The aims of this study were to assess the status of systems for chronic illness care in Aboriginal community health centres, and to explore whether more developed systems were associated with better quality of diabetes care.
This cross-sectional study was conducted in 12 Aboriginal community health centres in the Northern Territory of Australia. Assessment of Chronic Illness Care scale was adapted to measure system development in health centres, and administered by interview with health centre staff and managers. Based on a random sample of 295 clinical records from attending clients with diagnosed type 2 diabetes, processes of diabetes care were measured by rating of health service delivery against best-practice guidelines. Intermediate outcomes included the control of HbA1c, blood pressure, and total cholesterol.
Health centre systems were in the low to mid-range of development and had distinct areas of strength and weakness. Four of the six system components were independently associated with quality of diabetes care: an increase of 1 unit of score for organisational influence, community linkages, and clinical information systems, respectively, was associated with 4.3%, 3.8%, and 4.5% improvement in adherence to process standards; likewise, organisational influence, delivery system design and clinical information systems were related to control of HbA1c, blood pressure, and total cholesterol.
The state of development of health centre systems is reflected in quality of care outcome measures for patients. The health centre systems assessment tool should be useful in assessing and guiding development of systems for improvement of diabetes care in similar settings in Australia and internationally.
PMCID: PMC1208882  PMID: 16117836
17.  Association of breastfeeding with asthma in young Aboriginal children in Canada 
Few studies have investigated the factors associated with asthma in young Aboriginal children.
To characterize the association of demographic, environmental and early life factors with asthma in young Aboriginal children in Canada.
The 2006 Aboriginal Children’s Survey was conducted among off-reserve Aboriginal children zero to six years of age to obtain information on Aboriginal children’s development and well-being. The prevalence of asthma in Aboriginal children was obtained from the parental report of asthma as diagnosed by a health care professional.
The prevalence of reported asthma among off-reserve Aboriginal children zero to six years of age (n=14,170) was 9.4%. Asthma prevalence in both exclusively breastfed children (6.8%) and ever but not exclusively breastfed children (9.0%) was significantly lower than that in nonbreastfed children (11.0%). In the multiple logistic regression analysis, exclusive breastfeeding was protective of asthma compared with nonbreastfeeding (OR 0.59 [95% CI 0.44 to 0.78]). Older age groups, male sex, having two or more older siblings, low birth weight, day care attendance and ear infection were significant risk factors for asthma.
The prevalence of asthma among young Aboriginal children zero to six years of age living off reserve was slightly lower than that reported for all other Canadian children. Breastfeeding, especially exclusively breastfeeding, was protective of asthma in Aboriginal children, which is consistent with what has been observed in non-Aboriginal children in Canada. Public health interventions intended for reducing asthma incidence in young Aboriginal children should include breastfeeding promotion programs.
PMCID: PMC3603760  PMID: 23248799
Aboriginal; Asthma; Breastfeeding; Children; Prevalence
18.  Review of research on aboriginal populations in Canada: relevance to their health needs 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2003;327(7412):419-422.
Objective To determine if research has adequately examined the health needs of the aboriginal population of Canada.
Design Review.
Study selection Medline search of journal articles published during 1992-2001. The search terms used were “Canada” and various synonyms and categories for Canadian aboriginal people. Each paper was categorised according to the aboriginal group, age-sex group, comparison group, geographic location, and type of research topic (health determinant, health status, or health care).
Results Of 352 citations found, 254 were selected after elimination of those without abstracts, not containing data on Canada, or not focusing on health issues. The proportion of papers does not reflect the demographic composition of aboriginal people in Canada, with severe under-representation of Métis, urban aboriginal people, and First Nations people not living on reserves and over-representation of the Inuit. Children and women received less attention proportional to their share of the population. A few prolific research groups have generated a disproportionate amount of publications from a few communities and regions. 174 papers dealt with health determinants (for example, genetics, diet, and contaminants), 173 with health status, and 75 with health care. Injuries, which account for a third of all deaths, were studied in only 8 papers. None of the health care papers examined rehabilitation.
Conclusion Researchers have not adequately examined several important health needs of the aboriginal population.
PMCID: PMC181255  PMID: 12933728
19.  Prevalence of and risk factors for asthma in off-reserve Aboriginal children and adults in Canada 
Only a few studies have investigated asthma morbidity in Canadian Aboriginal children. In the present study, data from the 2006 Aboriginal Peoples Survey were used to determine the prevalence and risk factors for asthma in Canadian Aboriginal children six to 14 years of age and adults 15 to 64 years of age living off reserve. The prevalence of asthma was 14.3% in children and 14.0% in adults. Children and adults with Inuit ancestry had a significantly lower prevalence of asthma than those with North American Indian and Métis ancestries. Factors significantly associated with ever asthma in children included male sex, allergy, low birth weight, obesity, poor dwelling conditions and urban residence. In adults, factors associated with ever asthma varied among Aboriginal groups; however, age group, sex and urban residence were associated with ever asthma in all four Aboriginal groups. The prevalence of asthma was lower in Aboriginal children and higher in Aboriginal adults compared with that reported for the Canadian population. Variation in the prevalence of and risk factors for asthma among Aboriginal ancestry groups may be related to genetic and environmental factors that require further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3603767  PMID: 23248805
Aboriginal; Adults; Asthma; Children; Prevalence; Risk factors
20.  Incidence and causes of end-stage renal disease among Aboriginal children and young adults 
Although Aboriginal adults have a higher risk of end-stage renal disease than non-Aboriginal adults, the incidence and causes of end-stage renal disease among Aboriginal children and young adults are not well described.
We calculated age- and sex-specific incidences of end-stage renal disease among Aboriginal people less than 22 years of age using data from a national organ failure registry. Incidence rate ratios were used to compare rates between Aboriginal and white Canadians. To contrast causes of end-stage renal disease by ethnicity and age, we calculated the odds of congenital diseases, glomerulonephritis and diabetes for Aboriginal people and compared them with those for white people in the following age strata: 0 to less than 22 years, 22 to less than 40 years, 40 to less than 60 years and older than 60 years.
Incidence rate ratios of end-stage renal disease for Aboriginal children and young adults (age < 22 yr, v. white people) were 1.82 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.40–2.38) for boys and 3.24 (95% CI 2.60–4.05) for girls. Compared with white people, congenital diseases were less common among Aboriginal people aged less than 22 years (odds ratio [OR] 0.56, 95% CI 0.36–0.86), and glomerulonephritis was more common (OR 2.18, 95% CI 1.55–3.07). An excess of glomerulonephritis, but not diabetes, was seen among Aboriginal people aged 22 to less than 40 years. The converse was true (higher risk of diabetes, lower risk of glomerulonephritis) among Aboriginal people aged 40 years and older.
The incidence of end-stage renal disease is higher among Aboriginal children and young adults than among white children and young adults. This higher incidence may be driven by an increased risk of glomerulonephritis in this population.
PMCID: PMC3470642  PMID: 22927509
21.  Tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug use among Aboriginal youth living off-reserve: results from the Youth Smoking Survey 
Despite the high prevalence of smoking among Aboriginal youth, there is a paucity of research related to tobacco use and other risk behaviours among Aboriginal youth living off-reserve in Canada. We used data from the national Youth Smoking Survey to characterize non-traditional tobacco use, exposure to second-hand smoke, and alcohol and drug use among Aboriginal youth living off-reserve. We examined whether these youth were at increased health risk compared with non-Aboriginal youth.
We examined cigarette smoking behaviour, use of other tobacco products, use of alcohol and other drugs, and exposure to second-hand smoke among 2620 Aboriginal youth living off-reserve and 26 223 non-Aboriginal youth in grades 9 to 12 who participated in the 2008/09 Youth Smoking Survey.
The prevalence of current smoking among the Aboriginal youth was more than double that among non-Aboriginal youth (24.9% v. 10.4%). Aboriginal youth also had a higher prevalence of regular exposure to second-hand smoke at home (37.3% v. 19.7%) and in cars (51.0% v. 30.3%). Aboriginal youth were more likely than non-Aboriginal youth to be current smokers, to be regularly exposed to second-hand smoke, to have tried marijuana and other illicit drugs, and to engage in binge drinking. They were less likely than non-Aboriginal youth to have tried to quit smoking.
Current national estimates of smoking, and alcohol and illicit drug use among youth underestimate the prevalence of these behaviours among Aboriginal youth living off-reserve. Our findings highlight the need for culturally appropriate prevention and cessation policies and programs for this at-risk population.
PMCID: PMC3091934  PMID: 21555383
22.  Challenges and strategies for cohort retention and data collection in an indigenous population: Australian Aboriginal Birth Cohort 
Longitudinal prospective birth cohort studies are pivotal to identifying fundamental causes and determinants of disease and health over the life course. There is limited information about the challenges, retention, and collection strategies in the study of Indigenous populations. The aim is to describe the follow-up rates of an Australian Aboriginal Birth Cohort study and how they were achieved.
Participants were 686 babies enrolled between January 1987 and March 1990, born to a mother recorded in the Delivery Suite Register of the Royal Darwin Hospital (RDH) as a self-identified Aboriginal. The majority of the participants (70%) resided in Northern Territory within rural, remote and very remote Aboriginal communities that maintain traditional connections to their land and culture. The Aboriginal communities are within a sparsely populated (0.2 people/ km2) area of approximately 900,000 km2 (347sq miles), with poor communication and transport infrastructures. Follow-ups collecting biomedical and lifestyle data directly from participants in over 40 locations were conducted at 11.4 years (Wave-2) and 18.2 years (Wave-3), with Wave-4 follow-up currently underway.
Follow-ups at 11 and 18 years of age successfully examined 86% and 72% of living participants respectively. Strategies addressing logistic, cultural and ethical challenges are documented.
Satisfactory follow-up rates of a prospective longitudinal Indigenous birth cohort with traditional characteristics are possible while maintaining scientific rigor in a challenging setting. Approaches included flexibility, respect, and transparent communication along with the adoption of culturally sensitive behaviours. This work should inform and assist researchers undertaking or planning similar studies in Indigenous and developing populations.
PMCID: PMC3942517  PMID: 24568142
Epidemiological method; Prospective longitudinal cohort; Ethnic minority; Health determinants; Australian; Aboriginal
23.  Recent epidemiologic trends of diabetes mellitus among status Aboriginal adults 
Little is known about longitudinal trends in diabetes mellitus among Aboriginal people in Canada. We compared the incidence and prevalence of diabetes, and its impact on mortality, among status Aboriginal adults and adults in the general population between 1995 and 2007.
We examined de-identified data from Alberta Health and Wellness administrative databases for status Aboriginal people (First Nations and Inuit people with treaty status) and members of the general public aged 20 years and older who received a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus from Apr. 1, 1995, to Mar. 31, 2007. We calculated the incidence and prevalence of diabetes and mortality rate ratios by sex and ethnicity in 2007. We examined the average relative changes per year for longitudinal trends.
The average relative change per year in the prevalence of diabetes showed a smaller increase over time in the Aboriginal population than in the general population (2.39 v. 4.09, p < 0.001). A similar finding was observed for the incidence of diabetes. In the Aboriginal population, we found that the increase in the average relative change per year was greater among men than among women (3.13 v. 1.88 for prevalence, p < 0.001; 2.60 v. 0.02 for incidence, p = 0.001). Mortality among people with diabetes decreased over time to a similar extent in both populations. Among people without diabetes, mortality decreased in the general population but was unchanged in the Aboriginal population (−1.92 v. 0.11, p = 0.04). Overall, mortality was higher in the Aboriginal population than in the general population regardless of diabetes status.
The increases in the incidence and prevalence of diabetes over the study period appeared to be slower in the status Aboriginal population than in the general population in Alberta, although the overall rates were higher in the Aboriginal population. Mortality decreased among people with diabetes in both populations but was higher overall in the Aboriginal population regardless of diabetes status.
PMCID: PMC3168663  PMID: 21788417
24.  The potential influence of KIR cluster profiles on disease patterns of Canadian Aboriginals and other indigenous peoples of the Americas 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2011;19(12):1276-1280.
Genetic differences in immune regulators influence disease resistance and susceptibility patterns. There are major health discrepancies in immune-mediated diseases between Caucasians and Canadian Aboriginal people, as well as with other indigenous people of the Americas. Environmental factors offer a limited explanation as Aboriginal people also demonstrate a rare resistance to chronic hepatitis C virus infection. Killer immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) are known modulators of viral responses and autoimmune diseases. The possibility that variation in KIR cluster profiles contribute to the health outcomes of Aboriginal people was evaluated with Canadian Caucasian (n=93, population controls) and Aboriginal (n=86) individuals. Relative to Caucasians, the Aboriginal KIR cluster displayed a greater immune activating phenotype associated with genes of the B haplotype situated within the telomeric region. In conjunction, there was a decrease in the genes of the B haplotype from the centromeric region. Caucasian and Aboriginal cohorts further demonstrated distinct genotype and haplotype relationships enforcing the disconnect between the B haplotype centromeric and telomeric regions within the Aboriginal population. Moreover, Caucasian KIR cluster patterns reflected studies of Caucasians globally, as well as Asians. In contrast, the unique pattern of the Canadian Aboriginal cohort mirrored the phenotype of other indigenous peoples of the Americas, but not that of Caucasians or Asians. Taken together, these data suggest that historically indigenous peoples of the Americas were subject to immune selection processes that could be influencing the current disease resistance and susceptibility patterns of their descendents.
PMCID: PMC3230357  PMID: 21731058
pro-inflammatory immunity; ethnicity; KIR centromeric; KIR telomeric
25.  Examining DNA fingerprinting as an epidemiology tool in the tuberculosis program in the Northwest Territories, Canada 
International Journal of Circumpolar Health  2013;72:10.3402/ijch.v72i0.20067.
Tuberculosis (TB) is an important public health problem in the Northwest Territories (NWT), particularly among Canadian Aboriginal people.
To analyse the transmission patterns of tuberculosis among the population living in the NWT, a territorial jurisdiction located within Northern Canada.
This population-based retrospective study examined the DNA fingerprints of all laboratory confirmed cases of TB in the NWT, Canada, between 1990 and 2009. An isolate of each lab-confirmed case had genotyping done using IS6110 Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism. DNA patterns were assigned to each DNA fingerprint, and indistinguishable fingerprints patterns were assigned a cluster. Social network analysis (SNA) was used to examine direct linkages among cases determined through conventional contact tracing (CCT), their DNA fingerprint and home community.
Of the 225 lab-confirmed cases identified, the study was limited to 195 subjects due to DNA fingerprinting data availability. The mean age of the cases was 43.8 years (±22.6) and 120 (61.5%) males. The Dene (First Nations) encompassed 120 of the cases (87.7%), 8 cases (4.1%) were Inuit, 2 cases (1.0%) were Metis, 7 cases (3.6%) were Immigrants and 1 case had unknown ethnicity. One hundred and eighty six (95.4%) subjects were clustered, resulting in 8 clusters. Trend analysis showed significant relationships between with risk factors for unemployment (p=0.020), geographic location (p≤0.001) and homelessness (p≤0.001). Other significant risk factors included excessive alcohol consumption, prior infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis and prior contact with a case of TB.
This study demonstrates how DNA fingerprinting and SNA can be additional epidemiological tools, along with CCT method, to determine transmission patterns of TB.
PMCID: PMC3650219  PMID: 23671837
tuberculosis transmission; RFLP; social network analysis; aboriginal; DNA fingerprinting; contact tracing

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