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First Nations & Inuit Health

First Nations and Inuit Health Services: Public Health Protection and Primary Care

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Health Canada's key objectives in relation to First Nations health are to improve health outcomes; ensure availability of, and access to, quality health services and support greater control of the health system by First Nations.

To meet these goals, funding supports three broad areas: 

  • primary health care, which includes health promotion and disease prevention, public health protection and primary care activities;
  • supplementary health benefits and
  • health infrastructure support.

Of the $2.4 billion in current planned spending for 2011-12, approximately 49 per cent will fund supplementary health benefits, 41 per cent will fund primary health care activities and 10 per cent will focus on health infrastructure support.

Public Health Protection and Primary Care

Health Canada funds or delivers nursing services on reserve including primary care in isolated areas where provincial services are not readily available.  Health Canada also supports the delivery of a Home and Community Care program in 669 First Nations and Inuit communities. 

The Department also maintains programs to control and manage communicable diseases, a core component of public health. The department supports and/or delivers a range of programs and initiatives on-reserve to reduce the incidence, spread and human health effects of communicable diseases in collaboration with other jurisdictions. Programming focuses on:

  • blood borne diseases;
  • respiratory infections;
  • sexually transmitted infections;
  • vaccine preventable diseases; and
  • communicable disease emergencies.

Specific activities include public health measures to:

  • identify risks (e.g., surveillance, reporting);
  • prevent, treat and control cases and outbreaks of communicable diseases (e.g., immunization, screening, directly observed therapy);
  • promote public education and awareness to encourage healthy practices; and
  • strengthen community capacity (e.g., pandemic planning).

Regarding environmental health, the department works with First Nations communities to monitor the safety of drinking water and environmental health and contaminant issues.

Health Canada also provides information on climate change vulnerabilities, and recommends common preventive measures that can help reduce health risks.

Health Canada works collaboratively with First Nation communities, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to address health considerations related to housing on reserves. Health Canada conducts up to 3,000 public health housing inspections every year on reserve, at the request of First Nations communities, and provides recommendations on remedial actions.

Health Canada's recommendations related to housing and water in First Nation communities are addressed to the community's Chief and Council for remedial action.