Team examines history of health inequities

April 30, 2011

Despite Saskatchewan’s long commitment to health care, it has some of the most extreme health outcome disparities in Canada, particularly when comparing First Nations with non-Aboriginal populations, or rural with urban populations.

SPHERU researchers James Daschuk, Gloria DeSantis, Paul Hackett, Tom McIntosh and Nazmi Sari are examining the history of health inequities in Saskatchewan by looking at a range of historical data collections. These include government documents, community-based organization archives, personal diaries, newspaper stories, and local histories in order to better understand the historical roots of these inequities.

They are taking digital photos and scans of this material to create a rich historical database. They will use quantitative data from early Department of Public Health annual reports on bed numbers, average length of hospital stays, numbers of doctors, maternity cases, types of diseases, and historical data tracing the changing nature and development of the provincial economy to understand how health changed over the twentieth century, and how it varied between communities.

By applying these cutting edge historical research techniques in combination with diverse analytical approaches available to this multidisciplinary health research team, the team will mine the data in order to gain new insights that could inform modern policy makers.

Other historical aspects of health inequities have been targeted for study. These include the varied effects of European settlement on Saskatchewan’s Aboriginal people, including comparisons between First Nations and Métis health, or between First Nations communities who entered treaty and those who did not. In addition, they will explore the changing economic and policy decisions that impact health outcomes such as the consequences of rural depopulation starting in the “Dirty ’30s” and centralization of health care technology; the transition from charity-driven health care to community-run health districts to full public health care; and the prevalence of chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes versus contagious diseases such as tuberculosis in remote northern communities such as Black Lake and Fond du Lac.

The researchers will identify the past patterns of health in Saskatchewan, how these have changed over time, and how key medical, policy, and other interventions influenced the inequitable distribution of health for specific sub-populations.

This project is supported by a Health Research Team Grant from the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF).


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