Understanding health disparities affecting First Nations and Métis peoples in Canada

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Comparison of Cancer Patterns and Trends in First Nations People and the General Population of Ontario, 1968-2001

— Loraine Marrett

Timeline: April 2002 - September 2004 (Completed)
Funding Amount: $149,969.00

What is this research Project about?

While cancer rates for the Canadian population are stabilizing or declining, it appears that cancer rates are increasing in the First Nations (FN) population. Research is needed to understand the extent and possible implications of this trend. This research Project will attempt to answer several questions: 1) are FN people in Ontario on the verge of epidemics of some common forms of cancer? 2) why, at a time when we have some understanding of how to reduce cancer rates, are rates in FN people continuing to climb? 3) will some cancers that were once rare in FN people become more common than in the general population? 4) why is cervical cancer so much higher in FN people, given that it is largely preventable through high quality screening? The researchers will identify priority areas for cancer control strategies, policies, surveillance and future research.

How will this research be done?

The Ontario Cancer Registry database (OCR) will be linked with the 141,290 Ontario FN members created from the federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs' registration files, to estimate current patterns of cancer incidence, mortality and survival in Ontario FN. FN cancer rates will be analyzed by sex, time period and cancer type and rates of cancer amongst FN people will be compared with rates for the non-FN Canadian population. The researchers will also review the existing literature and collect information on the determinants of cancer in FN (e.g., smoking, uptake of cancer screening, physical activity, diet, socio-economic factors). A national workshop will be convened to share the research results and help create a national Aboriginal Cancer Registry and a national Aboriginal cancer control strategy in Canada. The national workshop will be sponsored by the Joint Ontario Aboriginal Cancer Committee (through Cancer Care Ontario) and the National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO).

Why is this research important?

This research should generate policy-related activities at the level of federal, provincial/territorial and FN governments and organizations, by highlighting the changing patterns of cancer incidence, survival and mortality in the FN population. A national effort in Aboriginal cancer surveillance, research and education/intervention and a cancer control strategy for Canada's FN will be encouraged. The results of this research Project will provide information needed to develop such a strategy, by bringing together individuals and organizations to address the determinants of health and improve the health of FN people.

Loraine Marrett
Cancer Care Ontario
Toronto, Ont.

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