Is .4% of the $82B COVID-19 budget allocation enough to protect Indigenous People?

The most recent pandemic was H1N1 in 2009 where 27.8% of all hospital admissions were Indigenous people who at the time represented only 4.3% of the over-all population. (Maclean’s, July 16, 2009)

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Manitoba had the highest rate of hospitalization among First Nations

Consider also:

  • 17.6% of all deaths during the first wave were Indigenous
  • 8.9% of all deaths during the second wave were Indigenous
  • 20.9% of all paediatric patients under the age of 21 admitted to Intensive Care Units (ICUs) during both waves were First Nations children
  • 25.6% of all admission to Intensive Care Units (ICUs) for adults during the first wave were First Nations

National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health (2016). The 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic among First Nations, Inuit and M├ętis peoples in Canada: Epidemiology and gaps in knowledge.

The above study also stated the following fact: “there is consistent evidence indicating that First Nations people in particular were at increased risk of severe outcomes from H1N1 influenza, especially during the first wave of the pandemic”. Also, most publications reviewed focused on First Nations on reserve and/or living in remote areas “despite some evidence in two studies indicating the Inuit may be particularly affected by H1N1 influenza during the first wave of the pandemic.

First Nations and Inuit have some of the highest rates of lower respiratory infections (i.e pneumonia, bronchiolitis) in the world. In the 2009 Macleans article quoted above, Dr. Anna Banerji, infectious disease paediatrician and Indigenous and Refugee Health faculty lead at University of Toronto identified the following risk factors that are virtually the same in 2020 – 11 years after the H1N1 pandemic:

  • Overcrowded housing
  • Sanitation (lack of sewers)
  • Poor ventilation (resulting in mould, asthma, allergies)
  • overall health
    • obesity (2 x higher than general population)
    • Diabetes (4 x higher than general population)
  • Inuit race (20% of general population on Baffin Island are non-Inuit; all hospitalized children were Inuit
  • Poor nutrition
  • Smoking during pregnancy
  • Lack of breastfeeding

Given all the above, is $305M out of an over-all COVID-19 relief budget of $82B enough for what has been identified as a high risk population? The video link below to the First Nation Health Managers Association Covid-19 Virtual Town Hall held today will answer some of those questions:

See below as well for a detailed infographic on Indigenous vs Non-Indigenous Health Outcomes. Canada has ranked between 6th and 12th on the UN Human Development Index while First Nations fall between 63rd and 78th. No change since 1981.

Call to ActionDescription
Call to Action # 19Establish measurable goals to identify and close Health gaps

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