Inuit Children Exposed to Lung Diseases -- MEDICA - World Forum for Medicine

Inuit Children Exposed to Lung Diseases

Photo: Huskies in the icy nature of Alaska

Living in the rural areas of
Alaska hightens the risk for
the children; © JB/

Inuit children have the highest rate of hospital admission for Lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs) globally, but new research shows that lowering risk factors through public health interventions and an enhanced immunisation programme could improve health for Inuit children and lower health care costs significantly.

According to recent Statistics Canada data, the Aboriginal infant mortality rate in Nunavut is two-to-three times the Canadian average. Respiratory infections are the leading cause for admission, medical evacuation and expenditure for Inuit children in the health care system. "Infants of Inuit race were nearly four times more likely to be admitted for LRTI than mixed or non-Inuit infants," explains Anna Banerji who conducted the case control research. "LRTI increases the risk of recurrent infections, chronic lung disease and asthma so there are many potential health complications."
Banerji's key findings on the risk factors that contribute to LRTIs among Inuit children include:

  • Inuit infants were four times more likely to be admitted for LRTI than mixed or non-Inuit infants. It was not determined if this was a result of genetic factors or socio-economic factors.

  • Infants of mothers who smoked during pregnancy were four times more likely to be admitted for LRTI.

  • Overcrowded living conditions increased the risk of admission by 2.5 times.

  • Living in a rural community without a hospital increased risk of admission by 2.7 times.

  • Prematurity was not associated with an increased risk of admission.

  • Infants who were not breast-fed were 3.6 times more likely to be admitted for LRTI.

  • Infants who were custom adopted had 4.4 times the risk.

Banerji also conducted a cost analysis by age and location that compared the costs of administering a vaccine approved for the prevention of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) – the most common cause of lower respiratory tract infections. The vaccine is used only for prevention and is usually a monthly injection during RSV season. The results demonstrated that by immunising rural Inuit infants with the vaccine, the health care system could save money – up to 8,000 U.S. dollars per admission avoided. The analysis concludes that preventative measures can both improve the health of children and result in a cost savings for the health-care system.; Source: St. Michael's Hospital