Diabetes and the Urban Aboriginal Population

2012 UAKN Research Paper Series


Diabetes is recognized as a major health concern for Aboriginal people living in urban and rural communities in Canada. It is important to investigate the burden of diabetes among Aboriginal people living in mainstream urban and rural communities.

The 2006 Aboriginal Peoples Survey conducted by Statistics Canada, has shown that diabetes is an important health problem for off reserve Aboriginal people. Diabetes is associated with the growing challenge of obesity among Aboriginal children; it is also connected to upstream health determinants including household poverty, poor self perception of health and well being, challenges for access to preventative services, medical treatment, and care/rehabilitation.
Clearly, diabetes is connected to a plethora of chronic conditions where the end game is vascular disease and heart disease. It is critical that a life course approach is employed to optimize developmental trajectories that promote health across the lifespan at each stage from pre-conception health of the mother to the intra-uterine environment, post-natal period, infant, child, youth, adult and Elder life stages.

Interventions need to be grounded in the circumstances of disparities in social and economic determinants of health to mitigate the corrosive effects of poverty on healthy growth and development. Gender specific interventions need to be tailored to ensure equal opportunity and access to programs and services for all.

The National Association of Friendship Centres is well positioned to play a role in improving health and wellness by creating new programs that are designed with, for and by Aboriginal people to promote self-determination through healthy living. This could be accomplished through new community based Aboriginal focused health centres and medical clinics, which could serve a catalytic role in addressing the problems associated with diabetes and other chronic conditions mentioned in this paper.