Inuit childbirth in Canada: An exploration of place, culture, and health

Theme 5. Other
Session Name 5.2 Participatory methods for health
Presentation Type Oral
Author(s) Laura Jane Brubacher (University of Guelph, Canada), Naomi Tatty (Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada), Gwen Healey (Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre, Canada), Cate E. Dewey (University of Guelph, Canada), Sherilee L. Harper (University of Guelph, Canada)
Abstract text

Inuit in Canada experience the highest infant mortality rate in the country, and significantly higher rates of preterm births, stillbirths, and maternal health issues, as compared to non-Inuit. These differences are attributed, in part, to the lack of availability and type of obstetrical care women receive. Most Baffin Island women are required to fly out of their communities for birth, and remain in southern hospitals for weeks (obstetric evacuation, OE). A qualitative study was conducted in Iqaluit, Nunavut to characterize the connections between Inuit health, culture, and place, by hearing Inuit perspectives on (i) what childbirth was like historically, and presently, in communities; and (ii) how the healthcare system and obstetric policies in Canada may more fully reflect Inuit culture, knowledge, and conceptions of well-being. Twelve focus group discussions (conducted as sewing groups) and 24 semi-structured interviews are being conducted with currently pregnant Inuit women in Iqaluit, as well as 8 oral histories with Elders. Twelve key informant interviews are proposed with government and healthcare stakeholders in Iqaluit and Ottawa to hear their perspectives on OE. Based on the literature and preliminary data analysis, women report feeling isolated, lacking prenatal support, and receiving obstetrical care from a Western model that is incongruous with Indigenous teachings on well-being. Importantly, place-attachment – one’s psychological, emotional, and spiritual connection to the land – is central to Indigenous peoples’ well-being. As such, OE may have especially serious impacts on the overall well-being of Inuit mothers. This study will propose Inuit-identified recommendations for researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers.

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