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Original Research - Circumpolar Special Issue: Human health at the ends of the earth

Cultural, socioeconomic, and health indicators among Inuit preschoolers: Nunavut Inuit Child Health Survey, 2007-2008

Submitted: 31 October 2009
Revised: 9 March 2010
Published: 18 June 2010

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Author(s) : Egeland GM, Faraj N, Osborne G.

Grace EgelandNancy FarajGeraldine Osborne

Citation: Egeland GM, Faraj N, Osborne G.  Cultural, socioeconomic, and health indicators among Inuit preschoolers: Nunavut Inuit Child Health Survey, 2007-2008. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2010; 10: 1365. Available: http://www.rrh.org.au/articles/subviewnew.asp?ArticleID=1365 (Accessed 17 October 2017)

ABSTRACT

Introduction: Indicators of socioeconomic status, health behaviours and health histories are important for evaluating population health and indicators associated with ‘indigeneity’ features, prominently as determinants of health for Indigenous peoples. Health surveillance of young children, who represent society’s most vulnerable, can provide meaningful data regarding achieving an optimal healthy start in life.
Methods: A cross-sectional health survey of Inuit children, aged 3-5 years, was conducted between 2007 and 2008. The latitude of the communities ranged from 56o 32’N to 72o 40’N. A bilingual research team conducted face-to-face interviews which included the use of questionnaires covering factors associated with indigeneity, the physical and socio-economic environment, health behaviours and health histories. Weighted prevalence estimates were calculated.
Results: The participation rate was 72.3%; 388 randomly selected children participated. Indicators of traditional food utilization and sharing were highly prevalent and Inuktitut was spoken by 65.2% of preschoolers in the Inuktitut speaking regions. A large percent of the preschoolers lived in a crowded dwelling (53.9%) and in public housing (69.7%), and in a home in need of major repairs (37%). There was an average of 2 smokers per household but the majority of homes restricted smoking to outside the home (83.1%). The majority of mothers smoked during pregnancy (82.5%). For children who were not adopted, there was a high prevalence of breastfeeding initiation (80.6%). A high prevalence of children were ever hospitalized, excluding deliveries (41.6%), and within the past year 40.7% of the children had to be taken to the health centre or hospital for a respiratory problem.
Conclusion: Indicators of indigeneity suggest the Inuktitut language is thriving and that children are learning Inuit ways through extended family contact and country food utilization and sharing. The high prevalence of smoking restrictions in the home is evidence of the success of public health messaging but further work is needed to improve health behaviours. The high prevalence of household crowding, homes in need of major repairs, public housing and income support all indicate chronic economic and social disadvantages that have negative implications for children’s health. Interventions are needed to improve housing and reduce poverty for families with young children.

Key words: Aboriginal Health, Canada, children, household crowding, prenatal alcohol exposure, prenatal smoking, socioeconomic factors.

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