Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence

  Maternal And Infant Health And The Physical Environment Of First Nations And Inuit Communities:
A Summary Review


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The research and publication of this study were funded by the Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence (PWHCE). The PWHCE is financially supported by the Women's Health Contribution Program, Bureau of Women's Health and Gender Analysis, Health Canada. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of the PWHCE or the official policy of Health Canada.

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R. Stout, T. Dionne Stout & R. Harp


First Nations and Inuit women and infants face challenging health issues in their communities where there are environmental risks. Literature examining these contexts and the processes through which health is affected is relatively limited. The objective of this review is to examine and consolidate the available literature on environmental threats to First Nations and Inuit maternal health in order to identify priorities for future research.
“There are circumstances and conditions that are unparalleled to the North…persistent organic pollutants in country foods…are all factors that complicate the delivery of maternity care programs and services.”1


A review of the published literature was carried out on environmental health and effects on maternal First Nations and Inuit health to assess the current body of knowledge. Information on published studies, in the 30-year period from 1978 to 2008, was obtained from primary literature through an extensive search using MEDLINE, Science Direct, JSTOR and ProQuest databases using the search terms Aboriginal, First Nations, Native American, Inuit, maternal, infant, mercury, health, contamination, environment, Canada, toxic, mining, etc.
As well, a search of national political Aboriginal organizations and NGOs, government departments, national maternal/infant health organizations, and health research institutes websites was conducted to find projects and research related to the physical environmental conditions and Aboriginal health, with particular consideration of maternal and infant health (see Appendix).
The information is compiled in an electronic database for easy reference and analysis.

Parameters and Limits
In researching information on agency websites, there were insufficient data uploaded on to sites, thus limiting knowledge on the extent of work on the subjects. Telephone interviews and in person meetings would augment the findings. However, the use of databases did provide a variety and number of scientific studies.
Given the time limitations assigned to this paper, we could not generate an exhaustive listing of all available research. This is therefore a sampling of research documents drawn over a period of 12 weeks from the databases mentioned above, which represent the most widely and commonly used sources of this type of information by the science / environment / health community. The result was a total of 73 peer reviewed articles.

1. Exploring Models for Quality Maternity Care in First Nations and Inuit Communities: A Preliminary Needs Assessment. Final Report of Inuit Women's Needs Assessment. National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO). 2006.

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