A new study looking at the correlation between poor housing conditions and increased respiratory issues of children in remote First Nation communities has found significant evidence.
Published by the Canadian Medical Association on January 24, 2022, a study was produced by the CHEO Research Institute, along with the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre, Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority and the Nishnawbe Aski Nation that proves poor housing conditions can play a major factor in the respiratory health of First Nations (FN) children.
Data was collected by a team of researchers using studies of the children and homes of four remote communities, Lac Seul FN, Kasabonika Lake FN, Sandy Lake FN and Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug FN (Big Trout Lake FN), three of which are only accessible by air or ice roads.
Participants were recruited through local media and questionnaires, as well as via a community-based research coordinator.
To fit the criteria of the study, participants needed to have parental self-identification as FN and they needed to be age 3 years or younger. Newborn babies and children that had just recently moved into their homes were also excluded from the study.
At the end of the recruitment stage, 124 participants had been approached but only 81 participants were selected to take part in the study. Selected participants had a mean age of 1.6 years.
The experiment itself was conducted over 5 days in each of the homes.
Using multiple different air quality monitors and assessments done by housing inspectors, researchers were able to calculate that 85% of the homes lacked proper controlled ventilation and that 44% of the homes had evidence of water penetration in the walls.
High amounts of interior surface area mould and bacterial residue were also found.
Most of the participant's homes were also found to be overcrowded, with the mean occupancy of the homes investigated being 6.6 people, however, the study found a range of 3-17 people living in each house.
Compared to national statistics, the average Canadian household size is 2.5 people.
Indoor commercial tobacco smoking was found to be a prevalent issue with 94% of the participant's homes having one or both guardians smoking inside. The median number of smokers per household was 2.0 but researchers found a range of 0-7.
The study found that 25% of the children involved required medical treatment for respiratory illness, with just over 20% of the involved children admitted to the hospital within the first two years of their life.
The outcome of the study: poor housing conditions including lack of proper ventilation, the presence of mould and dust (including endotoxin), overcrowding, and lack of proper water access, all play a factor in the increased amount of both lower and upper respiratory infections in FN children in remote FN communities.
The research was done with the approval and cooperation of the Chief and Band Council of each community.
The study was funded by Health Canada and Indigenous Services Canada.
You can read the full research article by clicking HERE