Nunavut’s biggest health problem: poverty

So argues the doctor and novelist Kevin Patterson, author of Consumption, in this science article published Sept. 5 in the Globe and Mail:

Influenza has a cure – it’s affluence

Genetic theories are often used to explain — usually without much convincing evidence — the vulnerability of aboriginal people to all sorts of ailments, from viral infections to alcoholism. To his credit, Patterson acknowledges there are some “differences in immunity among different racial groups,” but rejects such potentially odious notions.

[T]he main reason native people die of infections, at rates that would be inconceivable and entirely unacceptable to other Canadians, is because they are poor. The poor die of everything – heart attacks, diabetes, suicides, homicides, drowning, house fires – at rates that would not be permitted along the various Bridle Paths of the nation.

The most effective vaccine against any infection is affluence. In this respect, southern and, especially, urban Canadians are among the most thoroughly inoculated anywhere. But the importance of the huge disparities in affluence – between the races, between the north and the south, between rural and urban communities – becomes not merely a matter of fairness but one of life and death when epidemic disease appears

Patterson also makes an ominous prediction:

A catastrophe exists already, and will manifest itself further and with great predictability in Pukatawagan and Sioux Lookout and Shamatawa and Arviat and Hobema and Hazelton and Masset and Kasheshewan and Davis Inlet in a few months, when influenza fully comes ashore.

I hope he’s wrong.

But this editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal does not inspire confidence. And the Globe and Mail agrees with the CMAJ analysis.

For the record, Leona Aglukkaq and David Butler Jones say Canada’s ready. The three northern premiers all declare that territorial governments are ready too.

They damn well better be right.

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One Response to Nunavut’s biggest health problem: poverty

  1. Throbbin says:

    Until identify and establish an export economy, we’re doomed to perpetual poverty.

    Resource development is one potential path out of poverty, but even this is complicated. When RIO’s negotiate poor IIBA’s (that see only a miniscule percentage of employees at a Gold Mine of Inuit heritage) the majority of wealth that is actually created in the north will continue to flow to Toronto Mining Company board rooms.

    The wealth that does remain in the north is concentrated in the hands of the few. This is no recipe for economic development.

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