AFN says UNICEF Canada Report Demonstrates Further Evidence that First Nations Especially Vulnerable to H1N1

    OTTAWA, June 24 /CNW Telbec/ - Assembly of First Nations National Chief
Phil Fontaine said a report released today by UNICEF, entitled Aboriginal
Children's Health: Leaving No Child Behind - the Canadian Supplement to State
of the World's Children 2009, provides further evidence that First Nations are
especially vulnerable to viruses like H1N1.
    "Today's report by UNICEF demonstrates that the inequities in health
services for First Nations, compounded by the poor social conditions found in
too many of our communities, contributes to our poorer health status even in
the best of times," the National Chief said. "This is why First Nations are
particularly vulnerable to H1N1. The World Health Organization already has
pointed out that there is a link between the severity of H1N1 cases and poor
living conditions, over-crowded housing, poor-quality drinking water,
pre-existing chronic diseases and sub-standard healthcare. It is time for
action to improve the conditions that make us the most vulnerable segment of
the population."
    The UNICEF report examined inequities in Canada's health system that
perpetuate health disparities between First Nations and other Canadian
children. It states that federal investments in First Nations health services
have not mirrored population growth, and that a number of services routinely
provided to other Canadians are under-funded or denied. The report also notes
that while there have been improvements in the health of First Nations
children in recent years, inequalities persist such as higher infant mortality
rates, lower child immunization rates, poorer nutritional status and endemic
rates of obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases.
    The AFN has called on governments to take three urgent measures to
improve the response to pandemic outbreaks of H1N1 in First Nations
communities. These include: striking an independent taskforce to study the
recent outbreaks in Ontario and Manitoba and make recommendations to ensure
more seamless service; developing and instituting national guidelines for
service to First Nations; and providing investments that will allow every
First Nation to develop a pandemic plan, as well as investing in Annex B which
is the portion of the Canadian Pandemic Influenza Plan that addresses
outbreaks in First Nations.
    AFN Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse stated: "The chronic
under-investment in health is unacceptable but it is not unique. In fact, as
we have seen in report after report and study after study, First Nations are
under-funded across the board and this is reflected in the poverty and poor
conditions in too many of our communities. First Nations want to build their
economies and ensure their people and communities are healthy, but making this
a reality means putting an end to this fiscal discrimination."
    "It should be clear to all Canadians at this point that the problem is
not simply confined to the current H1N1 crisis," said AFN Manitoba Regional
Chief Bill Traverse. "We do need immediate action on that front, but even with
that our communities will still be vulnerable and our people will still be
living in conditions that would not be tolerated elsewhere in Canada. We need
a government-wide response that involves working with First Nations to create
a real, coordinated plan that will foster healthier communities and healthier
citizens. We should all support this goal because strong First Nations make a
stronger Canada."
    While the majority of H1N1 cases have so far been mild, the World Health
Organization (WHO) has warned that H1N1 could reappear in the fall and cause
more severe illness.

    The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing
First Nations in Canada.

For further information:

For further information: Bryan Hendry, Senior Policy Advisor, (613)
241-6789, ext. 229, cell: (613) 293-6106,; Karyn Pugliese, AFN
Heath Communications Officer, Cell: (613) 292-1877,

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