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Language barriers restricting access to health care for Indigenous populations – CMAJ

by ahnationtalk on May 30, 2018208 Views

May 30, 2018

The lack of health services offered in Indigenous languages is impeding the delivery of care to Indigenous populations, according to Aluki Kotierk, president of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, which administers treaty rights for the 49 000 Inuit inhabitants of Nunavut. The first language of 75% of the Inuit population in Nunavut is Inuktituk, yet patients are unlikely to hear it spoken by health care providers.

“Many Inuit have little faith in the health system,” Kotierk said at the Indigenous Health Conference, recently held in Mississauga. “I look forward to the day when an Inuktituk-speaking patient can walk into a clinic and request services in Inuktituk.”

The gaps in Nunavut’s health system can only be addressed by training local, Inuktituk-speaking health professionals, said Kotierk. With only one doctor for every 3000 residents and almost two thirds of nursing positions vacant, the traditional reliance on professionals from outside the territory has proven inadequate. In many cases, she noted, health care workers who don’t speak Inuktituk rely on patients and other staff as informal translators, although they have limited understanding of medical terminology.

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