The problems facing Aboriginal Peoples need little introduction. The information on disparities (opposite) is a stark reminder that many First Nations, Inuit, and Métisa people have signiﬁcantly worse health and more challenging living conditions than the larger Canadian population. This cycle must be broken. In 2010, the Health Council of Canada began a multi-year project to learn more about the crisis in Aboriginal health, with a focus on programs or initiatives that have the potential to reduce unacceptable health disparities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.
In the ﬁrst year of this work, we set out to learn about the health care of expectant mothers and children from the prenatal stage to age six. It’s well documented that better lifelong physical, mental, and spiritual health begins in childhood; this is the place to start.
The Aboriginal population in Canada currently has a much younger demographic than the non-Aboriginal population, and a higher birth rate. In the last few years, a number of leading organizations have urged governments to focus their attention on this vulnerable population. In January and February of 2011, the Health Council held a series of seven regional meetings across Canada to learn what is making a difference in the health of Aboriginal mothers and young children. We invited front-line workers (mostly in health care), academics, and government representatives from a mix of urban and rural, northern and southern settings, and representing First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities. Many participants had not previously met, and were eager to learn about one another’s work, the issues they face, and success stories.