Canada’s top doc to visit Nunavut

Canada’s top doctor will tour Nunavut this week to see communities first-hand

Iqaluit Nunavut

Photo: Danielle Paradis/APTN.

Canada’s chief public health officer will tour Nunavut this week, says Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI).

Dr. Theresa Tam will visit the Arctic communities of Naujaat, (Repulse Bay), Pond Inlet and Iqaluit to coincide with the launch of a community-wide screening clinic for tuberculosis (TB) in Naujaat.

TB is a infectious disease that doesn’t feature prominently in the Canadian consciousness, but remains an issue in the North.
In 2023, 1,904 active TB cases were reported in 2023. That averages out to .05 active cases per 100,000 people.

The number of infections is higher among Métis (2.1) First Nations (16.1) and Inuit populations (135.1,) according to Health Canada. Naujaat, located x km from Iqaluit, and Pond Inlet, x km from Iqaluit, are presently experiencing TB outbreaks.

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“The rates of TB in Nunavut are already much higher than the rest of Canada because of overcrowded homes and difficulties in accessing health-care services,” said Paul Irngaut, vice-president of NTI, in a news release.

“We can all do our part to stop the spread of TB so one day soon we can eliminate this curable and preventable disease from Nunavut.”
NTI is a regional advocacy group for Inuit.

Five years ago, Ottawa and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a national Inuit advocacy group, announced plans to reduce active TB across Inuit Nunangat by at least half to no more than 100 cases per 100,000 people by 2025, and eliminate it entirely by 2030.

Inuit Nunangat, or Inuit homeland in Canada, is made up of more than 50 communities in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, Quebec and Labrador.

“Early detection is key to eliminating TB from our communities,” said Nunavut Health Minister John Main in the release.

Tuberculosis is airborne and, according to Health Canada, requires prolonged exposure (weeks, months or years) in order to spread. During COVID-19 the focus on coronavirus affected testing and treatment rates.

APTN News reached out to the Chief Public Health Office of Nunavut for more information on the outbreaks but did not hear a response by deadline.

While it’s been nearly eradicated among non-Indigenous people born in Canada,TB continues to cause public health crises in Indigenous communities.

Tam will be accompanied by Irngaut, Main and Nunavut’s deputy chief public health officer Dr. Ekua Agyemang, among others.

“Having Dr. Tam on the ground visiting Nunavut communities will give her the opportunity to see firsthand some of the barriers that Inuit face when trying to navigate the healthcare system in Nunavut,” said Irngaut.

In January, NTI announced a five-year project by the Tamia TB foundation to measure bacteria levels in wastewater. The project is funded by the federal government and NTI contributed $500,000.

Although TB remains the focus of the visit, Tam will also meet with community groups and organizations to discuss issues such as homelessness, health education, mental health and health research initiatives.

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