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Our health counts: population-based measures of urban Inuit health determinants, health status, and health care access

Smylie J, Firestone M, Spiller MW, Tungasuvvingat Inuit. Can J Public Health. 2018; 109(5-6):662-70. Epub 2018 Oct 9.


Objective — Health determinants and outcomes are not well described for the growing population of Inuit living in southern urban areas of Canada despite known and striking health disparities for Inuit living in the north. The objective of this study was to work in partnership with Tungasuvvingat Inuit (TI) to develop population prevalence estimates for key indicators of health, including health determinants, health status outcomes, and health services access for Inuit in Ottawa, Canada.

Methods — We employed community-based respondent driven sampling (RDS) and a comprehensive health assessment survey to collect primary data regarding health determinants, status, and service access. We then linked with datasets held by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), including hospitalization, emergency room, and health screening records. Adjusted population-based prevalence estimates and rates were calculated using custom RDS software.

Results — We recruited 341 Inuit adults living in Ottawa. The number of Inuit living, working or accessing health and social services in the City of Ottawa was estimated to be 3361 (95% CI 2309–4959). This population experiences high rates of poverty, unemployment, household crowding, and food insecurity. Prevalence of hypertension (25%; 95% CI 18.1–33.9), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (6.7%; 95% CI 3.1–10.6), cancer (6.8%; 95% CI 2.7–11.9), and rates of emergency room access were elevated for Inuit in Ottawa compared to the general population. Access to health services was rated fair or poor by 43%. Multiple barriers to health care access were identified.

Conclusions — Urban Inuit experience a heavy burden of adverse health determinants and poor health status outcomes. According to urban Inuit in Ottawa, health services available to Inuit at the time of the study were inadequate.

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