Inuit strategy on TB calls for more action
“It is unconscionable that TB rates among Inuit in Canada remain steadily at Third World levels"
Tuberculosis among Inuit has been increasing at an “alarming pace,” Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami said March 25.
TB is now about about eight times more prevalent in Nunavut and Nunavik than it was in 1997.
That’s although overall incidence of the disease in Canada has been trending steadily downward, according to numbers cited in the “Inuit-Specific Tuberculosis Strategy,” which ITK released to coincide with World TB Day on March 24.
In 2011, the reported incidence rate of TB for Inuit was nearly 254 times the rate reported for Canadian-born non-aboriginals, and roughly 38 times the rate reported for Canada overall, the strategy said.
“It is unconscionable that TB rates among Inuit in Canada remain steadily at Third World levels,” said ITK president Terry Audla in a March 25 news release. “The release of this strategy is a positive step forward. It sets the path for an action plan, one that will lead to reduced TB in Inuit Nunangat.”
Tackling TB will take a long-term commitment and money, the ITK strategy said.
The strategy talks about how overcrowded and poorly ventilated housing, limited access to nutritious food, and variable access to health care services can contribute to the development of TB.
TB is an infectious disease that usually affects the lungs, although all other organs may be involved. If untreated, the disease can be fatal.
“Last week’s federal budget was the opportunity for Ottawa to tackle head-on the social inequality that helps this disease thrive among Inuit,” said Audla, who promised to continue lobbying in Ottawa “for immediate attention to these issues.”
Expansion of programs such as in-community x-ray clinics, like the community-wide x-ray testing offered in Kangiqsualujjuaq during the 2012 outbreak there, and the Taima TB project in Nunavut and new tools for TB detection, treatment, and prevention all play a part in lowering the level of TB among Inuit, ITK said.
And, with more than 70 per cent of Inuit in Nunavut and Nunavik smoking, the strategy also recommends making sure more Inuit are aware about the links between smoking and TB.
Overall, the strategy calls for more community education, “Inuit-appropriate prevention control and care programs,” more research and good evaluation and reporting of TB cases.