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Provinces and territories are responsible for delivering health care services, guided by the provisions of the Canada Health Act. Health care services include insured hospital care and primary health care, such as physicians and other health professional services. Like any other resident, First Nations people and Inuit access these insured services through provincial and territorial governments.

However, there are a number of health-related goods and services that are not insured by provinces and territories or other private insurance plans. To support First Nations people and Inuit in reaching an overall health status that is comparable with other Canadians, Health Canada's Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) Program provides coverage for a limited range of these goods and services when they are not insured elsewhere.

The Non-Insured Health Benefits Program is Health Canada's national, medically necessary health benefit program that provides coverage for benefit claims for a specified range of drugs, dental care, vision care, medical supplies and equipment, short-term crisis intervention mental health counselling and medical transportation for eligible First Nations people and Inuit.


Health Canada is working with First Nations people and Inuit to improve their health. Together with First Nations and Inuit organizations and communities, we carry out many activities aimed at helping people stay healthy, and prevent chronic and contagious diseases.

Health Canada's role in First Nations and Inuit health goes back to 1945, when Indian health services were transferred from Indian Affairs. In 1962, Health Canada provided direct health services to First Nations people on reserve and Inuit in the north. By the mid 1980s, work began to have First Nations and Inuit communities control more health services. Health Canada's [[ahc-asc/performance/estim-previs/plans-prior/index-eng.php|plans and priorities]] give an overview of Health Canada's role in health care for First Nations people and Inuit.

In recent years, First Nations and Inuit health has improved in areas such as living longer and preventing infant deaths. Despite improvements, gaps remain in the overall health status of First Nations and Inuit compared to other Canadians. For example, First Nations people and Inuit have higher rates of injury, suicide and diabetes. Visit the Statistical Profile on the Health of First Nations in Canada page for more details.

What Information is Available?

In this section you will find information on how to stay healthy, learn about disease threats and health conditions; substance use and help with addictions; drug, dental and medical benefits as well as what programs and funding are available for First Nations and Inuit in Canada

On the Health Canada Web site, each navigation section (listed in the left-hand column of the screen) has its own Contact Us page. For contact information for sections other than First Nations, Inuit & Aboriginal Health, view the Main Contact Us page.
Choose any of the following topics for contact information relating to First Nations, Inuit & Aboriginal Health:

Diseases and Health Conditions

Family Health

Health Care Services

      • For information about the Aboriginal Health Transition Fund, contact the Aboriginal Health Transition Fund Secretariat.
      • To learn about eHealth solutions in Canada for First Nations and Inuit communities, contact an eHealth Solutions Unit Regional Office.
      • Information on the joint partnership between Alberta First Nations communities and Health Canada's First Nations, Inuit & Aboriginal Health Branch Alberta Region, contact the Alberta First Nations TeleHealth Program:
        Telephone: (780) 495-4949, Fax: (780) 495-8920.
      • For information about the Health Integration Initiative, contact the [[contact/fniah-spniafnih-spni/sppa-ppas-eng.php|Strategic Policy, Planning and Analysis Directorate]].
      • For information on the services provided to former Indian Residential School students and their families through Health Canada's Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program, please contact the Regional Coordinator in your province/territory.
      • For general information about First Nations, Inuit & Aboriginal Health Branch nursing services, contact the Office of Nursing Services - Main Office, or one of the nursing services regional offices.
      • For information on Home and Community Care, the National First Nations Telehealth Research Project, and the Tuberculosis Elimination Strategy, contact the Primary Health Care and Public Health Directorate.

Health Promotion

Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB)

Substance Use & Treatment of Addictions


Reports and Publications

      • Health Canada offers numerous print and audio-visual resources on a wide variety of health issues of concern to Aboriginal peoples in Canada through the First Nations, Inuit & Aboriginal Health Branch Publication Resource Centre.

First Nations, Inuit & Aboriginal Health

General Information
      • For general questions/comments about First Nations, Inuit & Aboriginal Health Branch programs and services, please contact the Assistant Deputy Minister's Office.
      • For general questions/comments about regional First Nations and Inuit programs and services, please contact a First Nations, Inuit & Aboriginal Health Branch Regional Directors.
Statistical Information

Health Canada's First Nations and Inuit Health Branch uses contribution agreements to flow funding for health programs and services for First Nations people on reserve, and Inuit in the North.

The contribution agreements fall within the following authorities:
The following programs and activities are currently being funded through various types of contribution agreements.For more detailed information, see the [[fniah-spnia/pubs/aborig-autoch/2007_compendium/index-eng.php|First Nations and Inuit Health Program Compendium]] publication. For current expenditures and program information, view Health Canada's 2006-2007 Departmental Performance Report.

Children and Youth

  • **Aboriginal Head Start On-Reserve Program**
    The Aboriginal Head Start On Reserve (AHSOR) Program provides early childhood/preschool intervention that supports the development of the physical, intellectual, social, spiritual and emotional well-being of First Nations children. Program clients: children from birth to 6 years of age, and their families living on-reserve.
  • Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program - First Nations and Inuit Component
    The goal of the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program-First Nations and Inuit Component (CPNP-FNIC) is to improve maternal and infant nutritional health. Program clients: pregnant First Nations and Inuit women, mothers of infants, and infants up to twelve months of age who live on reserve or in Inuit communities, particularly those identified as high risk. Also includes First Nations and Inuit women of childbearing age on-reserve and in Inuit communities.
  • **Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Program**> The Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Program addresses a number of health problems that are associated with alcohol use by mothers during pregnancy. The main purpose of the program is twofold: 1) reduce the number of babies born with FASD; and 2) support children who are diagnosed with FASD and their families to improve their quality of life. Program clients : First Nations on-reserve and Inuit individuals, children from age 0 - 6, and women of child bearing age.
  • Maternal and Child Health
    The goal of the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) program is to support pregnant First Nations women and families with infants and young children, who live on reserve, to reach their fullest developmental and lifetime potential. Program clients: all pregnant women and new parents, with long term support for those families who require additional services.

Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention

Communicable Disease Control

  • Air Borne Diseases - Tuberculosis (TB)
    The goal of the tuberculosis (TB) program is to reduce the incidence of the disease in First Nations and Inuit communities. Community-based research projects on control and prevention of TB infections in First Nations and Inuit communities are also funded. Program clients: First Nations people living on-reserve and Inuit in Labrador (Nunatsiavut).
  • Blood Borne Diseases and Sexually Transmitted Infections - HIV/AIDS
    The HIV/AIDS program provides HIV/AIDS education, prevention and related health services to First Nations on-reserve and some Inuit communities. The overall goal of this program is to work in partnership with First Nations and Inuit communities to prevent HIV/ AIDS transmission and support the care of those impacted by HIV and AIDS. Program clients: First Nations Bands; First Nations and Inuit Associations and Tribal Councils.
  • Vaccine Preventable Diseases (VPD) - Immunization
    The First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB) has developed and implemented a Targeted Immunization Strategy (TIS). The overall expected outcomes of the TIS are to improve coverage rates for routine immunizations, reduced VPD incidence, outbreaks and deaths, and the development of an integrated immunization surveillance system. Program clients: First Nations children under the age of six living on-reserve or in Inuit communities where FNIHB has the responsibility of ensuring the delivery of immunization services.

Environmental Public Health and Research

  • Environmental Public Health Program
    The Environmental Public Health Program (EPHP) is a community-based program that aims to protect and improve First Nations living on-reserves south of 60° health through the reduction of health risks, injuries or deaths. The EPHP also raises awareness of environmental public health hazards such as water, food and vector borne illnesses including health problems associated with indoor air quality, mould in housing and pest control (investigation of infestations and eradication of pests). Program clients: First Nations communities and individuals.
  • Environmental Health Research
    The Environmental Health Research (EHR) program carries out laboratory and field studies, research, monitoring and surveillance; and predictive modelling efforts, in the context of risks posed by environmental contaminants (chemical, biological and radiological) to the First Nations people and Inuit. Program clients: First Nations and Inuit communities.

In brief
Dr. Gail Gray spent a week on Baffin Island in a retreat devoted to discussions about health care delivery in the North. She says it is obvious that traditional medical practices and Inuit cultural values must be part of any new health care initiatives if the initiatives are to be successful.

We had gathered on the shore of Peterhead Inlet on Baffin Island for 5 days to discuss medical and traditional knowledge of the Inuit. This was to provide the basis for a review of the current status of medical care in the Northwest Territories (NWT), with a further focus on innovative ways of delivering health care in the future. The paramount goal that underlined all discussions was the preservation of traditional Inuit values.
The conference was held "on the land" to reinforce the very strong link between the Inuit and their environment. The beautiful grey waters of the sound, the clear blue of the sky and the rugged rock of the mountains combined to provide an awesome setting for our retreat.
Participants came from all parts of the NWT and represented all aspects of the health care system. Most important were the Inuit elders, who spoke to us of their personal knowledge about traditional medicine and educated us in traditional Inuit customs

Inuit’s love of the land, the importance of relationships, respect for elders -- such values must underlie any health care initiatives and be intrinsic in any new programs.
The federal government maintains that the provision of health care to status Indians is a matter of custom and policy rather than a treaty right. Universal hospital and medical insurance now provides a basis for the delivery of health services to aboriginal people through the provincial health care systems.[3] Although the Medical Services Branch of Health Canada provides public health services and noninsured health benefits for First Nations communities, the fact remains that these supplemental services are not adequate to achieve equity in health care for aboriginal people.[2]
Despite recent reductions in infant mortality rates,[2] the overall health status of aboriginal people remains poorer than that of the general population of Canada. Health problems of concern include mental illness, alcoholism and fetal alchohol syndrome, suicide, family violence, injuries, diabetes, tuberculosis, HIV infection, obesity and hypertension.[2] Incidence rates for these health problems among aboriginal groups are often several times higher than those in the general population; for example, the suicide rate among aboriginal men aged 15 to 25 is seven times the national average.[4]

Healing focuses on the person, not the illness. In his statement to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples a non-Aboriginal doctor, David Skinner, testified that “It is our belief that because our white man’s medicine is very technical-oriented, very symptom-oriented, very drugs- and surgery-oriented, that it lacks something that Native medicine has, which we desperately need but don’t practise: spirituality….In many of these things we are talking about — family violence, alcohol abuse, trauma, suicide — I believe that the Native public health nurses, Native nurses, Native doctors would have that in their approach as well — a spiritual component.
The path toward healing must start in the past if it is to lead to wellness for the Inuit in the future. http://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/201/300/cdn_medical_association/cmaj/vol-155/issue-11/1613.htm

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