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Tracy Antone
Director of Health


Emily King
NIHB Navigator North

Tobi Mitchell
NIHB Navigator South


RHS Phase 2 - Peoples Report

Ontario Region wants to acknowledge all those individual who participated; your input will help all First Nations across the country. The Regional Health Survey (RHS) People’s Report paints a picture of First Nations health in Ontario based on health data gathered through Phase 1 (2002/03) and Phase 2 (2008/10). This report was informed by the Cultural Framework developed by the First Nations Information Governance Centre (FNIGC) in 2005 – one that looks at total health based on: a balance of spiritual and cultural well-being; social and emotional well-being; mental well-being, and physical well-being.
This report provides comparisons between Phase 1 (2002/03) and Phase 2 (2008/10) of the RHS in order to measure changes in First Nations health indicators and inform health program planning and development. The twenty-four (24) First Nation communities that were randomly selected to participate in the survey are representative of Ontario First Nations overall.
The most recent data from Phase 2 (2008-10) demonstrates that Ontario First Nations have made some strides in areas such as educational achievement, sexual and prenatal health, infant health and smoking. Despite these improvements, there are still numerous areas of concern including physical activity levels, food insecurity, diet, levels of mold and mildew in homes, unsafe drinking water, lack of employment opportunities in Ontario First Nation communities, suicide, and many aspects of physical health (including preventive care, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes). Where there have been advances, such as in educational achievement, care must be taken to consider that they are still far below averages for the Province of Ontario overall.
There are many signs of spiritual and cultural well-being in Ontario First Nations communities. There is significant use of traditional medicines and healing and strong respect for cultural values. There are also strains on spiritual and cultural well-being; use of First Nations languages and cultural practices such as sharing traditional foods are in decline. Children and youth grasp the importance of learning their traditional culture and language as an aspect of their self-identity.
Although many communities face challenges in the area of housing and employment, shifts in family composition and out-migration, there are also signs of emotional and social well-being within Ontario First Nation communities. Adults leave in search of higher education or work, but return out of a need for community connection and cultural ties. Family values and respect for elders are prominent. Individuals are generally confident in their ability to handle problems effectively and are comfortable sharing personal issues with others (although more so with friends and family members than with professionals). However, there are also high levels of stress, and behavioural problems and bullying are on the rise. Some youth and young adults are also involved in aggressive interpersonal relationships, unprotected sex and substance abuse.
There are numerous pressures impacting mental well-being in Ontario First Nation communities. Although adults are returning to school to improve their education, not all are successful in completing post-secondary programs. This impacts employment levels, as does the lack of employment opportunities in the communities. Although total household income levels have improved slightly, poverty and food insecurity are major issues. A lot of adults are not looking for work due to poor health or disability. More than one-in-ten children and almost one-in-three youth has repeated a grade in school. Many youth are not receiving the parental and professional support, cultural guidance and nutrition that they need to successfully transition from elementary school to high school, and on to their chosen area of study in post-secondary education and employment. The long-term effects of residential school continue to impact many individuals. Ontario First Nation communities are also overwhelmed by high rates of depression, anxiety and suicide.
The physical well-being in Ontario First Nation communities differs greatly from what First Nations people perceive about their health status. Major increases have been noted in the rates of chronic disease among adults, youth and children. Despite better access to health care providers, medications, preventive care, traditional healers and education clinics, physical health is declining among Ontario First Nations people. Basic preventive measures, such as complete physical exams, are occurring less frequently. While people recognize the links between good health, and diet and exercise, the eating habits of youth and adults are poor and exercise levels are even poorer. Sedentary, indoor activities are now more common than outdoor, physical activities for the majority of Ontario First Nations individuals.
Not surprisingly, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure diagnoses are rapidly increasing. Obesity is seen in infants as young as two years old, and this excess weight remains with most throughout their entire life. Diabetes is on the rise and high blood pressure has skyrocketed. Physical limitations increase with age as the overall population increases; the demand for home care will no doubt increase as well.
It is hoped that if these health concerns and priorities are brought forward by the Ontario First Nations, other governments will respond appropriately. Ideally, the federal and provincial governments should be stepping up efforts to support Ontario First Nation communities in providing safe home and community environments, revitalizing languages and cultural activities, improving employment and education opportunities and housing availability, offering initiatives that encourage youth to stay in school, promoting leisure activity, and reducing barriers to health access, according to the needs identified by First Nations.


Date of Resource: 
7 May 2015
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