Bioethics Blogs

A Call to Action: Improve Indigenous Health

Alain Beaudet shares an excerpt of his speech, given at last week’s annual Forum of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, which outlines research priorities for indigenous health.


. . . [K]udos to the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences for devoting a full day of its annual meeting to a major forum on solutions to inequities in indigenous health. The topic is a critical one. Indeed, as you all know, many Canadian indigenous communities are living in a real state of crisis.

Some indigenous communities have tuberculosis rates that are four hundred times the rates of non-indigenous communities and some Inuit communities have forty times the suicide rates of non-Inuit communities.

Obesity, diabetes and hypertension are on the rise, with rates akin to those of low and middle income countries. For example, obesity rates exceed 26% among First Nations people, 22% for Métis, and 26% for Inuit, compared with 16% for non-indigenous Canadians. Smoking rates are also over two times higher among indigenous groups than the non-indigenous population, leading to increased incidences of lung cancer and chronic lung diseases.

Photo Credit: Françoise Baylis

And all this in a developed country, a member of the select group of G7 countries and a country particularly proud of its universal healthcare system.

. . .

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has made indigenous health one of its top research priorities in its last two 5-year strategic plans and its investments in this field have increased accordingly, growing from $2.14 million in 2001-02 to $30.8 million in 2014-15, in the face of a stagnating CIHR budget.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.