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Statistics Canada reports that Aboriginal peoples are one and a half times more likely to have a chronic disease than other Canadians. Suicide rates are staggering, at three times higher than those in Canada’s general population. Life expectancy is a full six years shorter.
Diabetes, one of the top five chronic health concerns of Aboriginal peoples, is of special concern. In 2001, 7% of the Aboriginal population reported having diabetes, while 2.9% of the Canadian population reported the condition.
Alcohol and drug abuse often go hand-in-hand with poverty and unemployment, while leading to social problems and health issues. In Canada, Aboriginal people are two to six times more likely than other Canadians to have alcohol-related problems.
In 1982, Indian and Northern Affairs launched the National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program, which funds 54 treatment centres and more than 500 community-based prevention programs, most of which are controlled by Aboriginal communities.
Poverty plays a role in causing poor health, but it is only part of the problem. Provincial and federal governments have been working with First Nations to improve the health of people in their communities. For example, Alberta’s Aboriginal Health Strategy Project Fund supports programs to improve access to healthcare.