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Inuit Stillbirth Rate Triple that of Canada’s Mainstream Population

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The high stillbirth rate among Inuit people is cause for concern, though not entirely because of the numbers themselves, according to one health expert.

The rate—triple that of the general Canadian population—is troublesome because of what it symbolizes: a lack of aboriginal child health care overall, said Catherine Curry, senior program officer at the Inuit Tuttarvingat Centre, the branch of the National Aboriginal Health Organization that addresses Inuit health and wellness issues.

Nevertheless, the statistic itself is sobering, the medical journal The Lancet reported in April, according to Postmedia News: In 2009, 3.3 Canadian babies of every 1,000 were stillborn, but Inuit communities were found to have triple that rate. Curry, who has studied Inuit maternal health care in northern Canada, told the news service that poor access to prenatal health care may not only contribute to a higher stillbirth risk but also puts children in general at risk.

“Many Inuit babies are born alive and need to be healthier,” Curry told Postmedia News. “Generally many public health factors and insufficient prenatal care impact infant-mortality rates. Prenatal care can mitigate a lot of those factors.”

The remoteness of many Inuit communities also plays a role (many do not have midwives on hand, and women must travel or see a series of practitioners), as do violence, poverty and substance abuse, she said.

The Lancet study was its Stillbirth’s Series, and 69 experts from 50-plus organizations in 18 countries contributed to a worldwide portrait of the unique tragedy. Globally 2.6 million third-trimester babies are stillborn, the Lancet said.