Social Determinants of Health
Indigenous peoples in Canada represent the fastest growing population in Canada and suffer from some of the biggest health inequalities in Canada.
To understand some of these inequalities, we must first under the Social Determinants of health:
- Socioeconomic status
- Geographical location
- Community background
Here are some quick facts:
- Indigenous people living in the north have a lower life expectancy than their non-indigenous counterparts. As of 2010, the average life expectancy for Indigenous people is eight years lower than other Canadians. The gap is wider with Inuit populations.
- Today, 31.1% of Indigenous people living in northern communities have a regular doctor compared to 67% of non-indigenous northern residents.
- Have a higher risk of developing one or more mental illnesses and are more likely to commit suicide than non-indigneous Canadians Higher risk of developing one or more chronic illness than non-indigenous Canadians. Chronic illnesses include: HIV/AIDS, Diabetes, Tuberculosis, heart disease, arthritis, COPD and other respiratory illnesses that are often brought on by living in houses with overcrowding, no heart and living with mold.
Health and Colonization
The effects of colonization, the “Sixties Scoop” and residential schools have led to high rates of intergenerational trauma, high unemployment rates, extreme poverty and lack of housing and clean water. The World Health Organization (WHO) has even acknowledged the impacts of colonization on Indigenous peoples in Canada;
In April 2007, an international delegation of Indigenous representatives met as part of ongoing consultations linked to the World Health Organization’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health. The proceedings from this meeting included the statement: “Everyone agrees that there is one critical social determinant of health, the effect of colonization” (Mowbray, 2007). In Canada, Indigenous conceptualizations of the social determinants of health have emphasized the fundamental role of colonization, racism, social exclusion and a lack of self-determination in the alarming disparities in Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples’ health.” 
Nursing Stations and Gaps to Care
Nursing stations in First Nations communities are the first point of contact for health issues. They provide assessment’s of a patient’s condition while determining if it is urgent or non-urgent and seeing if immediate action needs to be taken. For some communities a doctor usually comes once a month as a family doctor, but if a person wants to see a specialist they must travel far from their communiites (for example James Bay communities travel to Kingston for specialists like orthopedic surgeons, dialysis etc.).
Today there are many gaps where Indigenous peoples must travel to southern “hubs” due to a lack of:
- Emergency and crisis services
- Specialist care (orthopedics, physiotherapists etc.)
- Maternal and child health
- Health promotion and prevention
- Access and transportation to hospitals
- Culturally competent care
- Mental health services