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Study identifies risks for respiratory infections in Inuit children

Inuit children have the highest rate of hospitalization for lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs) globally. New research by St. Michael’s Hospital pediatric disease specialist Dr. Anna Banerji showed that lowering risk through an enhanced immunization program could improve child health and lower costs significantly.

Toronto, June 1, 2009

Dr. Anna Banerji Dr. Anna Banerji

Inuit children have the highest rate of hospitalization for lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs) globally. New research by St. Michael’s Hospital pediatric disease specialist Dr. Anna Banerji showed that lowering risk through an enhanced immunization program could improve child health and lower costs significantly.

“Inuit infants were four times more likely to be admitted for LRTI than mixed or non-Inuit infants,” said Dr. Banerji. “LRTI increases the risk of recurrent infections, chronic lung disease and asthma.” Statistics Canada reports that the Aboriginal infant mortality rate in Nunavut is two-to-three times the Canadian average. Better immunization could improve children’s health and lower mortality rates.

Lung infections are the leading cause for hospitalization and spending for Inuit children in the health care system. Some of her findings include:

  • Mothers who smoked during pregnancy were four times more likely to have infants admitted for LRTI
  • Inuit infants were four times more likely to be admitted for LRTI than mixed or non-Inuit infants

Dr. Banerji also did a cost analysis of using preventative Palivisumab prophylaxis vaccine, an antibody approved for the preventing respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) – the most common cause of LRTIs. The results showed that by immunizing rural Inuit infants, the health care system could save up to $8,000 per admission avoided.

Dr. Banerji’s research papers are posted online at journals.lww.com/pidj.

Banerji’s study is the second major report on Indigenous children’s health released by the Hospital. Earlier this year, it released Dr. Janet Smylie’s Indigenous Children’s Health Report: Health Assessment in Action.

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