SOGC Comment: Cuts to Aboriginal health funding risk worsening First Nations, Inuit and Métis women’s health
Apr 25, 2012
SOGC COMMENT: Cuts to Aboriginal health funding risk worsening First Nations, Inuit and Métis women’s health
The SOGC strongly regrets the Government of Canada’s decisions concerning funding cuts to a number of key Aboriginal health organizations. We are particularly concerned about how these decisions will affect First Nations, Inuit and Métis women’s health.
The Government of Canada has announced that its focus for Aboriginal health will be on front line services. Certainly, investments in front line services are urgently needed in many Aboriginal communities. They should not, however, come at the cost of First Nations, Inuit and Métis health research, promotion and prevention programs.
The need for continued investments in these areas cannot be overstated as they bring to light crucial information on the impacts of key social determinants of health, including poverty, social exclusion, and education and how this shapes women’s access to health services and health outcomes. For example, in the face of funding cuts, efforts to address the incomplete nature of First Nations, Inuit and Métis health statistics will be further curtailed. In the absence of essential information, health policy makers will not be able to make informed decisions on the design and delivery of health services and efforts to improve First Nations, Inuit and Métis women’s health outcomes.
It is widely recognized that poor health outcomes among First Nations, Inuit and Métis women are exacerbated by inadequate access to high quality, culturally-safe, health and social services. For example, First Nations, Inuit and Métis women experience disproportionately high rates of cervical cancer, diabetes and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and AIDS. Sexual violence is a major public health concern for First Nations, Inuit and Métis women. According to some studies, up to 50% of Aboriginal women surveyed report sexual abuse. The risk of maternal mortality and infant mortality is about twice as high in Aboriginal communities compared to the general population.
Across Canada, there is an urgent need to improve access to culturally-safe care and the SOGC is working closely with its partners to address this need. Culturally-safe care refers to health practices and programs that are adapted to the particular needs of Aboriginal women, including respect for women’s unique needs, interests, health beliefs and behaviours. Cultural safety begins with improved awareness among health professionals of key social determinants of health, including the social, economic, political and historical context of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. The SOGC’s partnerships with key Aboriginal organizations are a crucial component of our ability to improve the awareness and capacity of our members to provide culturally-safe care.
In response to the growing recognition of the sexual and reproductive health disparity between Aboriginal people and the rest of Canada, the SOGC established the Aboriginal Health Initiative Committee in 1993. In 2006, Aboriginal health became a key pillar in our Strategic Directions. Moving forward in 2012, we remain committed to continuing this work.
We acknowledge the expertise of our partners and are deeply saddened to see key programs and initiatives cut short in the wake of the Government’s funding decisions. We express our continued commitment to work with our members and partners to advance First Nations, Inuit and Métis women’s health across Canada.
Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Tel: (613) 730-4192 or Toll-free: 1-800-561-2416, ext. 366
Mobile: (613) 240-0169