The health of Canada’s Aboriginal children: results from the First Nations and Inuit Regional Health Survey
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OBJECTIVES: Reports on child health in Canada often refer to the disproportionate burden of poor health experienced by Aboriginal children and youth, yet little national data are available. This paper describes the health of First Nations and Inuit children and youth based on the First Nations and Inuit Regional Health Survey (FNIRHS). STUDY DESIGN: The FNIRHS combines data from 9 regional surveys conducted in 1996-1997 in Aboriginal reserve communities in all provinces. The target population consisted of all on-reserve communities. All households or a random sample of households or adults (depending on province) were selected based on their population representation. METHODS: One child was randomly selected from each participating household, except in Ontario and Nova Scotia, where children were randomly selected based upon their population representation. Alberta did not include the section on children's health in their regional survey. RESULTS: Approximately 84% of adults, who were proxy respondents for their child, rated their children's health as very good or excellent. The most frequently reported conditions were ear problems (15%), followed by allergies (13%) and asthma (12%). Broken bones or fractures were the most frequently reported injuries (13%). Respondents reported that 17% of children had behavioural or emotional problems. Overall, 76% of children were reported to get along with the family "very well" or "quite well." CONCLUSIONS: While most respondents rated their child's health as very good or excellent, injuries, emotional and behavioural problems, respiratory conditions and ear problems were reported among many Aboriginal children. Issues such as substance abuse, exposure to violence and academic performance were not addressed in the 10 core survey questions. Clearly there is a need for more in-depth information about both the physical and emotional health of Aboriginal children and youth.
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