In 2013 the six National Collaborating Centres for Public Health initiated a two-year project on Influenza and Influenza-Like Illness (ILI). As part of this collaborative project, the NCCAH produced three papers in order to understand how influenza, such as the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, is particularly experienced by Indigenous populations in Canada; the knowledge gaps in the epidemiological research related to influenza and Indigenous peoples; and how public health responses can be better tailored to the unique needs and characteristics of Indigenous peoples and communities. The three papers in this series include:
The first paper in this series synthesized available evidence on the impact of the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic on First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada. The review highlights gaps in knowledge in the epidemiological research and looked at the unique challenges faced by Indigenous people and communities during the 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak. Understanding the epidemiology of the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic is important for determining which populations are especially vulnerable to severe outcomes and to provide guidance on how to prepare for, and respond to, pandemic events in the future.
The second paper, a literature review, examines the factors which may contribute to the prevalence and severity of influenza infection among Indigenous peoples and communities. Understanding why Indigenous people are vulnerable to severe outcomes from large scale outbreaks of influenza like the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic is important not only for informing pandemic planning for future outbreaks, but also for developing policies and programs to address deeply rooted socio-economic, political and health services inequities. The factors that may affect Indigenous peoples’ vulnerability to influenza infection may affect other populations as well, and thus the findings from the literature review may be more broadly generalizable.
The third paper in this series focuses on the public health response to the 2009 A/H1N1 influenza pandemic in Indigenous communities. This pandemic was particularly severe in Indigenous communities and highlighted the multiple challenges Indigenous peoples continue to face to improve their health and well-being. The paper identifies lessons learned from the public health response to this influenza pandemic and makes recommendations for pandemic planning. Key lessons learned revolved around the need to ensure that public health responses in future pandemics are efficiently and effectively implemented in Indigenous communities and the need to implement broader policy changes to address continued socio-economic, political and health services inequities. As well, in order to achieve more effective public health pandemic (and other emergency) response in the future, the paper recommends that pandemic responses be tailored to the unique characteristics of Indigenous communities.
Additional NCC documents in this series are available at: http://nccid.ca/collection/influenza/
For information on the work of the NCCs, see the following websites: