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ITK announces steps to eliminate tuberculosis among Inuit

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami released details Monday morning of its plan to eliminate tuberculosis among Inuit by 2030.

The Department of Health set up a mobile clinic in Qikiqtarjuaq's community hall during February and March. A similar initiative followed in Whale Cove in October and November. photo courtesy of the Government of Nunavut

The six steps consist of enhancing tuberculosis (TB) care and prevention programming; reducing poverty, improving social determinants of health and creating social equity; empowering and mobilizing communities; strengthening TB care and prevention capacity; developing and implementing Inuit-specific solutions; and ensuring accountability for TB elimination.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami represents 60,000 Inuit who mostly live in Nunavut, the NWT, northern Quebec and northern Labrador, a combined area known as Inuit Nunangat. Inuit suffer from TB – an infectious disease that primarily affects the lungs and airways, and can be deadly if not treated by antibiotics – at a rate 300 times higher than non-Indigenous Canadians. There were 1,737 cases of active TB reported in Canada in 2016.

How the TB elimination action plans will be handled the regional level will be revealed by March 2019, according to ITK.

"Eliminating TB among Inuit in Inuit Nunangat by 2030 is an ambitious goal that will require deep commitment and ongoing, multilateral efforts. This framework serves to clear the path and guide the work across governments, Inuit regions and organizations, communities and healthcare professionals," said Natan Obed president of ITK.

As an interim goal, ITK is aiming to reduce active TB by at least 50 per cent by 2025.

The federal government, which is partnering with ITK in the fight against TB, has pledged $27.5 million over five years to aid ITK's "Inuit-specific approach" to tuberculosis elimination in Inuit Nunangat.

Because poor socio-economic conditions – poverty, crowded housing and limited access to nutritious food – are also blamed for high rates of TB, Ottawa allocated $240 million in 2017 to support housing in Nunavut over 10 years.

"We fully support this Inuit-led and Inuit-driven approach to address the social determinants of health that drive this epidemic and, ensure that the disproportionately high rates of TB affecting Inuit are fully addressed once and for all," said Jane Philpott, federal minister of Indigenous Services.

The Government of Canada has also acquired rapid TB diagnostic technology for use in Nunavut and helped make an effective drug to treat latent TB quickly available in the territory.

The GN Department of Health held its first mobile community TB screening clinic in Qikiqtarjuaq in February and March. The second screening clinic occurred in Whale Cove in October and November.