Chronic Health Conditions

Figure 22: National Chronic Health Conditions

The previous section began to explain the relationship between BMI and chronic health conditions. It is estimated that two thirds of Canadians have at least one modifiable risk factor for a chronic disease21:

  • Smoking
  • Low levels of physical activity
  • Unhealthy eating habits
  • Being overweight or obese

As with other health indicators, a number of differences are apparent with some chronic health conditions. In their work on the First Nations Regional Longitudinal Health Survey (RHS), the Assembly of First Nations has identified some key chronic health conditions, age-adjusted the rates and established comparisons with the Canadian population based on the information from the 2003 Canadian Community Health Survey.

Figure 22 provides a comparison between the on-reserve First Nation and Canadian rates for some specific chronic health conditions. In all cases, on-reserve First Nation rates for chronic diseases are higher than the Canadian population. For diabetes, First Nations are four times more likely to report living with diabetes than the Canadian population.

Figure 23: National Smoking Status - First Nations (2002), Canadians (2003)

One of the modifying risk factors for chronic conditions is smoking. Figure 23 shows a much higher proportion of daily smokers among First Nations compared to the populations of both Alberta and Canada. Almost half (46 per cent) of First Nations adults are daily smokers. For Alberta and Canada, the data include all individuals over the age of 12 and indicates that approximately one in four Albertans and Canadians smokes daily.

The impact of smoking on health also relates to some of the chronic conditions identified in Figure 22––asthma, many cancers and heart disease. Smoking is recognized as increasing the incidence and morbidity associated with many acute and chronic conditions (e.g., hypertension and diabetes) not included in the figure as well as having an impact on more common illnesses such as cold and flu that tend to linger longer for smokers. Smoking is the most common addiction and its impact is felt on the health of all age groups including infant and children22.

21Health Canada, 2006 External Environmental Scan, Internal Working Document, 2006

22Alberta Health Services website, Vineis, P. et al. “Tobacco and Cancer: Recent Epidemiological Evidence”, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, vol. 96, no. 2, January 21, 2004; DiFranza, J.R., Aligne, C.A., Weitzman, M., “Prenatal and Postnatal Environmental Tobacco Smoke Exposure and Children’s Health”, Pediatrics, vol. 113, no. 4, April 2004