Newsroom

Our Stories

Report shows disparities in Indigenous Children’s health

A groundbreaking study led by St. Michael’s Hospital’s Dr. Janet Smylie shows that Indigenous children in Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand experience higher rates of infant mortality, child injury, and many other health ailments compared to non-Indigenous children.

Toronto, April 9, 2009

Cover image of the Indigenous Children’s Health Report: Health Assessment in Action. Download complete report

A groundbreaking study led by St. Michael’s Hospital’s Dr. Janet Smylie shows that Indigenous children in Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand experience higher rates of infant mortality, child injury, and many other health ailments compared to non-Indigenous children.

In the four countries studied, researchers found Indigenous children suffered from infant mortality rates up to four times the national average, higher rates of sudden infant death syndrome, child injury, suicide, and accidental death. Indigenous children also experience a disproportionate amount of ear infections, respiratory illnesses and dental problems.

“There is no biologic reason why such genetically-diverse Indigenous groups would suffer from similar health issues,” said Dr. Smylie, a researcher at the Centre for Research on Inner City Health, part of the Keenan Research Centre at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital. “But there are similar social issues in all four countries that impact health.”

Some of the findings on Canadian Indigenous populations included:

  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome rates for First Nations with status in British Columbia and Inuit in Nunavik (Northern Quebec) are three to 12 times higher than non-First Nations and/or non-Inuit rates respectively.
  • The obesity rate for First Nations children living on reserve is 36 per cent, compared to eight per cent for Canadian children overall.
  • Vital registration, health care utilization, and surveillance data are nearly non-existent for First Nations without status, Métis, and urban Aboriginal children.

“The health disparities we encountered are clearly tied to social issues that disproportionately affect Aboriginal children,” said Dr. Smylie. “Approximately one-third of Aboriginal children come from low-income households and food-security is a serious concern. Poor water quality and substandard, overcrowded housing also contribute to health problems.”

Dr. Smylie hopes the comprehensive data collected for this study is the first step towards improving the lives of Indigenous children in Canada. “We would like to see this research help to create positive change and start the discussion on how to make the future better for all Indigenous children,” said Dr. Smylie.

The report, titled Indigenous Children’s Health Report: Health Assessment in Action, was released March 30th, and can be accessed here.

For more information: