New report provides unprecedented look at trends over time in the health and well-being of First Nations communities

A new report released by the First Nations Information Governance Centre (FNIGC) provides unprecedented insight into a wide range of factors affecting the health and well-being of First Nations people living on reserve and in Northern communities across Canada.

The National Report of The First Nations Regional Health Survey Phase 3: Volume 1, released today in Ottawa, is the culmination of the third phase of a landmark five-year survey process conducted by FNIGC and its Regional Partners across the country. Among the key findings of Volume 1 of the RHS Phase 3 are:

  • More than three-quarters (75.3%) of First Nations youth said they had abstained from any alcohol consumption in the previous year; a significantly higher proportion than that reported in the RHS Phase 2 (2008-2010), which showed that nearly two-thirds (61.0%) of youth had abstained from alcohol.
  • Nearly three-quarters (74.4%) of First Nations adults reported being directly or inter-generationally affected by their parents’ or grandparents’ attendance in Indian Residential School.
  • Only 1 in 10 (10.4%) youth reported smoking on a daily basis, and only 6.8% reported smoking on an occasional basis; this marks a significant decrease from the RHS Phase 2 (2008-2010) which reported 20.4% of youth were daily smokers (a decrease of nearly 50 percent) and 12.8% were occasional smokers.
  • A significantly higher proportion of First Nations adults reported having higher levels of educational attainment in 2015-2016; 14.8% reported high school as being their highest level attainment (compared to 9.8% in RHS Phase 2) and 3.2% reported having attained a Graduate-level education (compared to 1.3% in the RHS Phase 2). Levels of post-secondary attainment remained stable, at 45.6%.
  • The age-standardized prevalence of diabetes among First Nations adults was 19.2%, which represents a steady trend-over-time when compared to 20.7% in the RHS Phase 2 (2008-2010), and 20.1% in the RHS Phase 1 (2002-2003).
  • The percentage of First Nations adults reporting household mould or mildew was 39.7%, which marks a significant decrease compared to 50.9% in RHS Phase 2 and 44% in RHS Phase 1 (2002-2003).   Despite this, the current First Nations rate is still three times higher than the rate in the general population (13%).
  • More than two-thirds (69.7%) of First Nations adults were actively participating in the labour force*, a number that was slightly higher that the labour force participation rate in the general Canadian population (65.7%); yet they still experience lower employment rates (47.1% ) and higher rates of unemployment (61.1%) than the general population. (*the labour force participation rate is defined as the percentage of adults either employed or actively seeking employment).

“The results from the first volume of this essential First Nations-led report reveal some of the strengths, challenges, and resiliencies of our First Nations communities across the country, while also challenging a lot of common assumptions and misconceptions” says Dr. Jonathan Dewar, Executive Director of FNIGC.

“It’s my hope that the information contained in the RHS Phase 3 report will serve to inform decision-making at all levels of government, as well as contribute to a richer body of knowledge about the ever-changing nature of life in First Nations communities for researchers, policy makers, politicians, media, and the general public.”

The RHS was the first—and is still the only—national health survey created, conducted, and carried out by First Nations people for First Nations people. Launched in 1997, the RHS is rooted in Traditional and Western understandings of health and well-being and gathers information in First Nations reserve and northern communities across Canada.

RHS Phase 3, the latest phase of the survey, began data collection in April 2015 and wrapped up 18 months later finishing with 23,764 surveys completed in 253 First Nations communities, or 78 percent of its target number—a highly successful response rate for a survey of this size and complexity. .

The first RHS Phase 3 results are contained in the National Report of The First Nations Regional Health Survey Phase 3: Volume 1, which is being released today on Day Two of the “20 Years of First Nations Data: The Path to RHS Phase 3,” FNIGC’s RHS data release conference at the Delta Ottawa City Centre Hotel in downtown Ottawa. In addition, more than 80 charts and figures published in the report are now available on FNIGC Data Online, FNIGC’s free-to-use data tool:

A copy of the 170-page report can be downloaded here:  National Report of The First Nations Regional Health Survey Phase 3: Volume 1