Canadian Medical Association
Committed to Improving Aboriginal Health

Aboriginal Health a National Tragedy and a National Shame

An Excerpt from Presentation by Dr. H. Haddad, CMA President
Saskatchewan Medical Association Representative Assembly
May 11, 2002

Aboriginal Health One of the first priorities of the office is to do our part to move the yardstick on aboriginal health. You will all agree with me that the situation in First Nationís communities is a national tragedy and a national shame. Aboriginal health was one of the critical health challenges that I raised during my inaugural address last August. I said then that the CMA must take on a leadership role to seriously address this issue.

Well leadership through partnership means joining with those who are closest to the problem and I am very pleased and proud to tell you today about a Letter of Intent signed by the CMA and the National Aboriginal Health Organization. We have agreed to work together to address 4 key areas of need - workforce initiatives, research and practice enhancement, community health programming and leadership development.

The letter of intent is unprecedented, and marks the beginning of a promising new chapter in the campaign to improve the health status among First Nationís peoples across Canada.

Last month the CMA Council on Health Care and Promotion and the CMA Working Group on Aboriginal Health hosted a special session on Aboriginal Health. Representatives from the Aboriginal medical and health community, government departments and the research community spent two full days meeting with CMA to share information and perspectives, and to start the process of setting shared priorities.

Future meetings with the National Aboriginal Health Organization will enable our organizations to develop shared action plans.

This initiative reflects the very best of what our associations can do Ė using our resources to make a concrete, positive difference in the lives of our fellow citizens.

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The following is an excerpt from the
Inaugural Address By Dr. Henry Haddad, President, Canadian Medical Association
to the Canadian Medical Association Annual Meeting, Quebec, August 15, 2001

Aboriginal Health

The health status of our aboriginal people is one of Canada's major unresolved challenges. While there has been some progress, First Nations people in Canada are still 3 times more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease than non-natives, twice as likely to have cancer and more than twice as likely to suffer from hypertension. Diabetes is 3 to 5 times more prevalent.

In addition, first-order epidemic infectious illnesses like tuberculosis, hepatitis and meningitis as well as "social" illnesses relating to alcohol and drug abuse are more common in the native population.

A 1997 study showed that infant mortality within this group stood at 2 times the national average, and there was an 8-year gap in life expectancy at birth. A recent study, from the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy, showed that children in First Nations communities had 7 times the morbidity rate from accidents that non-First-Nations children had.

Dr. Jeff Reading, head of the Institute of Aboriginal Peoples Health, has said this is very much a poverty issue and noted that "raising the standard of living is the single most important factor to improve health status." The CMA has been and must continue to be a leader in the struggle to improve the health of aboriginal people.

Poverty is not a health determinant confined to the aboriginal community.

Many of us see the link between poverty and poor health daily in our practice, especially among Canadian children.


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