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Original Research

Diabetes screening of children in a remote First Nations community on the west coast of Canada: challenges and solutions

Submitted: 17 April 2007
Revised: 26 July 2007
Published: 20 August 2007

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Author(s) : Panagiotopoulos C, Rozmus J, Gagnon RE, Macnab AJ.

Constadina Panagiotopoulos

Citation: Panagiotopoulos C, Rozmus J, Gagnon RE, Macnab AJ.  Diabetes screening of children in a remote First Nations community on the west coast of Canada: challenges and solutions. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2007; 7: 771. Available: (Accessed 22 October 2017)


Type2 diabetes (T2D) and its precursor, impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), are now reaching epidemic proportions among Aboriginal Canadians. Of particular concern is the appearance and increasing prevalence of T2D and IGT among Aboriginal youth. At the request of three communities in the Tsimshian nation on the northern coast of British Columbia (with which the Department of Pediatrics, University of British Columbia, had a pre-existing partnership) a screening program was undertaken to determine the prevalence of T2D and IGT among the children. The long-term goal was the collaborative development of intervention programs for each community. The challenges of meeting this request included the sociological and ethical issues associated with research in First Nations communities, as well as the pragmatic issues of conducting complex research in remote communities. Three separate visits were undertaken to respect the cultural dynamics and capacity of the community to accommodate a project of this magnitude. The process began with dialogue, listening and presentations to the community. Only then began the planning of logistics and application for funding. Next, the team visited the communities to ensure understanding of exactly what was involved for the community, each child and family, and to be certain that consent was fully informed. For the diabetes screening visit, special arrangements including chartering a Beaver float plane were needed for the transport of the five-member team with all the necessary equipment, including a -20C freezer to safeguard the integrity of blood samples. The 100% consent rate, successful conduct of study, and retention of community support achieved by the process, indicate that population-based clinical research is possible in remote First Nations communities. This is best achieved with appropriate dialogue, care, respect and planning to overcome the sociological, ethical and practical challenges.

Key words: Canada, cultural safety, diabetes, Indigenous Canadians, logistics.

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