Improving the health status of Inuit women and their families has been a priority since Pauktuutit’s incorporation in 1984. The Territories have the highest rates of violence in the country, meaning that for Inuit women violence and abuse are significant physical and mental health issues. Sexual health and family planning are current issues for the Board and staff.
In response to direction provided by its membership and Board of Directors, Pauktuutit has implemented numerous successful health prevention and promotion projects on issues including maternal child health and midwifery, tobacco cessation, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, FASD, early childhood development, injury prevention, cancer, health research and others. Raising awareness and building the capacity of Inuit to deliver health programs in their communities is an important part of the work of the health department at Pauktuutit.
Inuit still have a much lower life expectancy than other Canadians, with a gap of 10 years for Inuit men in Nunavik compared to southern non-Indigenous Canadians. Rates of infant mortality are still relatively high, and suicide rates in some regions are up to nine times the national average. Other health disparities include higher rates of chronic illness and infectious disease, heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory illness. The rates of tuberculosis in Canada are highest among Inuit with a rate over 300 times that of the Canadian-born non-Indigenous population.
Many of these issues are an outcome of poor socio-economic conditions in Inuit communities as indicated by high poverty rates, low levels of educational attainment, limited employment opportunities, and inadequate and overcrowded housing conditions. The high birthrate, resulting in over 50 per cent of the Inuit population now being under the age of 25 has significant health policy and program implications. Most Inuit communities are served by a nursing station only and accessing hospital and/or specialized services can require travelling thousands of miles by air from home to larger centres such as Iqaluit, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Ottawa, Montreal or St. John’s.
Pauktuutit’s work on health is also intended to influence policy and program development to better meet the needs of Inuit women and their families, as well as developing plain language bilingual information resources for use by individuals, front line workers and health care providers. It uses a population health approach with a holistic view to addressing the social determinants of health including language, culture and gender as central considerations. Pauktuutit considers the unique needs and priorities of women, men, elders and youth in its policy and project initiatives.
New data: Tuberculosis in Canada 2014 – Pre-release [Internet]. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada; 2016 [cited 2017 Dec 12]. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/tuberculosis-canada-2014-pre-release.html#t4