January 2013 - Accessible, accurate, and applicable. These three words describe NCCAH’s fact sheet series, which use clear, straight-forward language to present concise, research-based overviews of specific health topics, including practical steps people and communities can take to improve their health and well-being. Produced under the Aboriginal ActNow BC initiative, the first province-wide, Aboriginal-specific health promotion strategy in B.C., funded by a grant from the B.C. government and hosted by NCCAH, these four fact sheets have recently been updated. They reflect the latest research and provide the most current information and resources related to four interrelated pillars of health – nutrition, tobacco cessation, healthy choices in pregnancy, and physical activity – which are key risk factors to the most common chronic diseases facing First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples across Canada.
A common theme in these fact sheets is that post-contact lifestyle changes have resulted in many health problems currently experienced in Aboriginal communities. The Nutrition Fact Sheet, for instance, outlines the impacts of the shift from a traditional diet, consisting of a wide variety of highly nutritious foods harvested and gathered from the land and water, to a nontraditional diet based on commercially processed and packaged foods that are low in nutritional value. This nutritional transition has been linked to disproportional rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension experienced by Aboriginal populations. Recommendations include incorporating more traditional foods or improving the nutritional value of a commercial diet.
Post-contact lifestyle changes are also discussed in the Tobacco Fact Sheet and in the Physical Activity Fact Sheet. The Tobacco Fact Sheet defines the problem of tobacco misuse as the “non-traditional, recreational and/or habitual use of commercial tobacco products.” Stripped of its traditional spiritual, cultural, and medicinal value, tobacco misuse is related to a number of preventable diseases and early death. In addition to detailing health impacts, including smoking during pregnancy and second hand smoke, the fact sheet provides a number of concrete steps communities can take to reduce the rates of smoking and other tobacco misuse. The Physical Activity Fact Sheet identifies daily activities such as hunting, fishing, food gathering and preparation, games, and competitions as part of traditional lifestyles that maintained physical strength, fitness, and health throughout all life stages. It includes several suggestions for increasing physical activity for both children and adults, and provides links to organizations that support active living.