BC Indigenous health improves, gap widens

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 61, No. 1, January February 2019, Pages 45-46 News

A 10-year undertaking to track Indigenous health in BC has found improvements in five key areas; however, the gap between the health status of Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents continued to widen in three of those areas.

A report released by the First Nations Health Authority and the Office of the Provincial Health Officer summarizes the results of tracking life expectancy, mortality, youth suicide, infant mortality, and diabetes rates between 2005 and 2015.

Key findings include:

  • Life expectancy among Status First Nations people improved between 2005 and 2015, but the life expectancy for other residents of BC improved at a faster rate, so the health status gap actually widened.
  • The age-standardized mortality rate, which measures death from all causes, improved somewhat since 2005, but the health status gap increased.
  • The youth suicide rate decreased, and although the gap with other BC residents did not quite meet the targeted 50% reduction it did decline substantially (by 38%).
  • The infant mortality rate decreased slightly since 2005, but the gap between the population groups increased.
  • The diabetes prevalence rate continued to increase for both population groups, but the rate of increase for First Nations people declined, resulting in an overall decrease in the health status gap that exceeded the 33% reduction target.

The Transformative Change Accord: First Nations Health Plan committed First Nations leadership and the Governments of British Columbia and Canada to achieve specific health targets by 2015 on seven core health indicators. The Office of the Provincial Health Officer and the First Nations Health Authority have agreed to continue to jointly monitor the health and well-being of First Nations people in BC for the next 10 years with an expanded suite of 22 indicators of health and well-being, called the Indigenous Population Health and Wellness Agenda.

The 22 indicators that will be tracked and reported on regularly over the next decade include measures developed in consultation with First Nations communities, such as cultural wellness, community strength and resilience, and ecological health. Cultural wellness, for example, will be a combined indicator reporting on traditional language, traditional foods, traditional medicine/healing, and a sense of belonging to one’s First Nations community.

The baseline report for the Indigenous Population Health and Wellness Agenda will be released in 2019. Read the full 2018 Report on Indigenous Health and Well-being at www.fnha.ca/about/news-and-events/news/indigenous-health-improves-but-health-status-gap-with-other-british-columbians-widens.

. BC Indigenous health improves, gap widens. BCMJ, Vol. 61, No. 1, January, February, 2019, Page(s) 45-46 - News.

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