Globally, tuberculosis (TB) remains a common cause of death and illness; each year, about 1.7 million adults s die from TB and another 9.2 million contract TB.
TB is relatively less common in Canada compared to other countries. However, the burden of TB is concentrated in some populations: new immigrants, the homeless, incarcerated, First Nations and Inuit.
In 2001, the World Health Organization launched the Global Plan to Stop TB which aimed at eliminating TB as a public health problem.
Despite ongoing efforts, we are not reaching the most vulnerable populations who need testing, treatment, and support. There are 370 million Indigenous people worldwide living in more than 70 countries. The vulnerability of Indigenous populations to this disease is well understood. We are at exceptionally high risk of becoming ill and dying from TB.
During the 5 year period 2002-2006, the First Nations tuberculosis rate was 29 times higher than others born in Canada. For the Inuit, it was 90 times higher. Pacific Islanders and Maoris are 10 times more likely to contract TB than other people living in New Zealand.
TB mirrors society. What is revealed are inequities for Indigenous peoples. We must strengthen our efforts to address Indigenous people’s needs or the vision of TB-free world by 2050 will fail.
- Excerpt from AFN Regional Chief Willie Littlechild address to the 2009 STOP TB Partnership meeting
First Nations are particularly vulnerable to TB for a number of reasons:
- poor housing which may lead to mold and mildew;
- overcrowding of homes means that there is more contact between people with TB and those at risk;
- difficulty in accessing nutritious foods, health care, and medication; and
- generally, poorer health status means that latent TB is more likely to become active, thus, increasing the risk of spreading TB to others.
Listen to the public service announcement by AFN Regional Chief Willie Littlechild:
March 2009 - The AFN lead a Canadian contingent to the annual meeting of the STOP TB Partnership in Brazil. AFN Regional Chief Wille Littlechild addressed the conference and highlighted the outcome of the November 2008 meeting of global indigenous leaders.
November 2008 - The AFN and Inuit Tapiriit Katinami (ITK), co-hosted a global indigenous conference on TB in Toronto (Canada). This initiative is part of the larger STOP TB Partnership, more information can be found in the Global Indigenous STOP TB section.