This report seeks to provide information on the determinants of health for First Nations in Alberta. It has done so by gathering and analyzing data from many sources, most of them publicly available.
Overall, the document shows that significant differences exist between First Nations communities in Alberta and between First Nations and non-Aboriginal populations in Alberta and Canada. The document identified some key points:
- The First Nations population in Alberta is growing rapidly, outpacing the natural rate of growth of a population.
- The on-reserve First Nations population in Alberta tend to be living in more populated communities than in the neighbouring provinces.
- For most health indicators, First Nations trail the rest of the Canadian population, but a number of indicators have improved over the years including infant mortality rates and life expectancy at birth.
- A significant educational gap exists between First Nations and other Albertans and Canadians–– in terms of high school completion, the gap is widening as the proportion of First Nations completing high school is not increasing as quickly as for non-First Nations students.
- There are significant gaps in terms of income and employment between First Nations and the non-Aboriginal population; the gaps seem to be correlated to educational attainment.
- Housing conditions for First Nations are poorer than for other Albertans and Canadians as they live in more crowded houses and a significant proportion of the on-reserve housing requires major repairs.
Throughout this report, linkages were established between determinants of health. It appears that a few specific determinants play a key role––education, employment and income. In turn, the data clearly show that these socio-economic indicators are impacted by four key personal health practices:
- Injury – The Health Status Reports have consistently highlighted much higher rates of injury for First Nations than for non-Aboriginal population; similar findings were presented when examining mortality causes.
- Substance use and abuse – much higher rates of daily smoking and heavy drinking for First Nations compared to the non-Aboriginal population.
- Young parenthood – First Nations become parents at a much younger age which may lead to more precarious economic circumstances.
- Body weight – higher prevalence of obesity, which can lead to a number of chronic conditions and poorer health status.