Tuberculosis Task Force

Backgrounder

The Inuit Crown Partnership Committee (ICPC) was created by the Government of Canada and Inuit elected representatives to pursue a shared commitment to advance shared priorities between Inuit and Canada and tackle the unique social, cultural, economic, and environmental issues that Inuit face every day.  This includes working together to address health challenges that are prevalent among Inuit, such as the high incidence of tuberculosis (TB) compared to non-Inuit populations.

The Incidence of TB among Inuit

Among Inuit, the rate of active TB disease in 2015 was more than 270 times higher than the rate in the Canadian-born, non-Indigenous population. Of all the provinces and territories, Nunavut has the highest rate of active TB disease at 119.2 per 100,000 population.
To reduce rates of TB across Inuit Nunangat, experts agree that the emphasis must be on breaking the cycle of transmission and engaging Inuit as full partners in all aspects of TB prevention and control.

Creation of Tuberculosis Task Force

•    At the February 9, 2017 meeting, ICPC members recognized the importance of partnerships in addressing the issue of TB elimination and committed to working with provinces and territories and other partners moving forward. On September 29, Ministers and Inuit leaders pledged to establish a Task Force built on existing processes to work together to develop and implement a strategy for eliminating tuberculosis across Inuit Nunangat.

•    The Task Force will build on the results of ongoing engagement with Inuit, including the work of the Inuit Public Health Task Group (comprised of Inuit representational organizations, federal and provincial and territorial governments), as well as key outcomes from the Inuit TB Elimination meeting that was held October 4-6, 2017. The Task Force will further define the Inuit approach to TB elimination in consultation with Inuit communities, with the objective of identifying concrete actions to realize the vision of TB elimination across Inuit Nunangat.

•    Work is also underway on the Nanilavut Initative. The Nanilavut reconciliation initiative aims to find the burial locations of Inuit who were sent away from their communities to undergo medical treatment during the TB epidemic of the 1940s-1960s, but never returned, and to facilitate initiatives to allow family members and communities to heal. To this day, some families do not know what became of their loved ones who never came home. The Government of Canada is committed to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, which requires righting historical wrongs.

•    As housing is a key component of addressing the challenges of TB elimination, the ICPC will continue working together to co-develop and advance an Inuit Housing Strategy, to better meet the housing needs of Inuit Nunangat.

Additional Government of Canada Action to Address TB among Inuit

Budget 2017 has pledged $828.2 million over five years towards improving the health outcomes of First Nations and Inuit. Of that amount, $13 million has been earmarked specifically for TB prevention and control, including more than $1 million targeted to Inuit populations.  

As part of the renewal process for the Territorial Health Investment Fund (THIF) 2017 2021, the Government of Nunavut has identified its TB program as a priority within the expected $4.3M annual allocation from the Government of Canada.

Over the past several years, the Government of Canada has supported a number of key initiatives to address TB across Inuit Nunangat. Among them are the following:

•    Investments in rapid TB diagnostic technology: Early detection and treatment of active TB is essential to stopping the spread of disease. The Government of Canada has made investments in the purchase of advanced rapid TB diagnostic technology in Nunavut to increase access to communities experiencing TB in these regions.

•    Education and awareness: Health Canada supports TB education and awareness targeted to health care professionals serving First Nations and Inuit, in collaboration with its national Indigenous partners, the Assembly of First Nations and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

•    Access to Rifapentine: Rifapentine is an antibiotic used in the treatment of TB that is not approved in Canada. However, in June 2017, Health Canada added Rifapentine to the list of drugs that can be imported to meet an urgent public health need. This addition will facilitate timely access to Rifapentine to address latent TB in areas experiencing high rates of the disease.

•    Community Mobilization Initiative: A Community Mobilization Initiative in Kangiqsualujjuaq, Nunavik, was completed in 2016. The aim was to increase awareness about TB and decrease disease transmission. Published results are anticipated in spring 2018.

•    Taima TB 3HP Project: The Government of Canada is also supporting the Taima TB 3HP Project, which will assess the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of a shorter course of treatment for latent TB infection among persons at increased risk so that they do not develop active TB disease. The study will also be assessing whether more people are willing to start treatment and whether more people will go on to complete full treatment for latent TB infection if the treatment is shorter.


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