Assessment of Inuit Health to shape future health care planning for Arctic communities
On August 7th, the McGill University Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment (CINE) will embark on the most comprehensive Inuit population health survey ever taken in Canada. Dr. Grace Egeland, Canada Research Chair in Environment, Nutrition and Health and Principal Investigator at McGill’s School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, and her team plan to survey 12 percent of Canada’s Inuit population to assess health issues and guide future health care planning and policy.
The study, titled Qanuippitali or “How About Us, How Are We?”, will be conducted aboard a floating health lab converted from the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Amundsen. Over the next two months, it will drop anchor in Inuit coastal communities in the Kivalliq and Baffin regions of Nunavut starting in Sanikiluaq on August 7th and ending in Arctic Bay in late September. Additional communities in Nunatsiavut (Labrador), Inuvialuit (Northwest Territories) and Nunavut will be participating in 2008. The researchers will compile health data in three sections: health of adults aged 18 and over, household health, and nutritional health status of children ages 3-5. Adult participants will be flown or ferried to the Amundsen, where nurses and staff will evaluate conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure as well as question participants about diet, life stressors and coping, home crowding and other lifestyle issues. Among children, who will be seen on land, the study will explore nutrition and environment. Over a two-year period, an estimated 2,000 adults and 600 children will be surveyed.
“The Inuit are resilient in the face of rapid and numerous changes that are occurring in all aspects of life. The health voyage will give us a better understanding of the current health status of Inuit as well as those factors that contribute to health and resiliency to better prevent the negative impact of the overwhelming changes associated with globalization, westernization, and climate change,” said Dr. Egeland.
The Qanuippitali project is endorsed by a steering committee of community leaders, representatives of local and regional government, and health agencies who provide guidance to Dr. Egeland's team.
This research is supported through the federally funded International Polar Year (IPY), the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), and the Northern Contaminants Program. Dr. Egeland’s multidisciplinary team is comprised of experts in the fields of nutrition and chronic disease, mental health and wellness, social capital and resiliency, and infectious disease and environmental contaminants. McGill collaborators include Drs. Hope Weiler, Harriet Kuhnlein, Brian Ward, Laurence Kirmayer, and Nancy Ross, as well as researchers from the University of Toronto, Laval University, University of Northern British Columbia, University of Victoria and University of Manitoba.