Nishnawbe Aski Nation

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July 29, 2020

NAN Congratulates Health Team for Award-winning First Nations' Air Quality & Housing Study

Thunder Bay, ON (July 29, 2020) Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler congratulates an award-winning health team for a groundbreaking air quality and housing study designed to help improve health in Indigenous communities.

The Sioux Lookout Zone Children’s Environmental Health Study Team was awarded the 2020 Health Canada Assistant Deputy Minister Award for Excellence in Sciences for their study, Indoor Air Quality and the Effect on Children’s Respiratory Health in First Nation Reserves in the Sioux Lookout Zone.

The study evaluated indoor air quality in houses of 101 children in four Indigenous communities in the Sioux Lookout Zone in relation to their respiratory health and use of health care services. Particulate matter from mold, wood and indoor CO2 was measured over two winters. Datasets are now being analyzed and a final report will be available once completed. 

The study was led by Dr. Tom Kovesi, Pediatric Respirologist at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and Research Investigator at the CHEO Research Institute. Partners including the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority (SLFNHA), NAN, Carleton University, First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of Indigenous Services Canada, Health Canada and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority Chief’s Committee played key roles in the development and launch of the study.

Data from SLFNHA shows that children in communities in the Sioux Lookout Zone in northern Ontario have elevated rates of asthma, bronchiolitis and pneumonia, as much as 16 times higher than the rest of Ontario,  but there is little information on their indoor environmental quality. This research will help identify building improvements to improve respiratory health including the optimal use of Heat Recovery Ventilation mechanical systems, which supports improved air quality and better health outcomes and the prevention of respiratory issues.

“This study is significant as it documents the substandard quality of air in homes and its relation to the health in First Nations communities. I congratulate everyone for their excellent work, and I look forward to putting the knowledge we gain into action to improve housing in our communities. This study is significant as it will link indoor air quality in relation to respiratory tract illnesses in young children. These findings will help NAN First Nations and will also be used for future similar studies in Indigenous communities across Canada.”

- Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, Nishnawbe Aski Nation

"Pediatric research goes beyond the hallways of our hospitals and care facilities. Dr. Kovesi and his team have been working on the important contribution of the external environment to health, a factor that families and health care professionals alike may sometimes overlook when reviewing a patient history. This study highlights the significant impact of air quality on the incidence of respiratory illnesses in children, a modifiable factor, the mitigation of which can lessen or even prevent disease."

- Dr. Jason Berman, CEO and Scientific Director of the CHEO Research Institute

“We recognize that this study directly impacts the families we serve in our region and join NAN in congratulating everyone in their excellent work. Indoor air quality is a critical issue for the health of the population we serve, where the top reason for hospitalization of children is due to respiratory conditions. This study is instrumental in helping us better understand the factors contributing to this inequitable health burden faced by the children and families we serve. We look forward to continuing to support this project and implementing solutions to improve the respiratory health in all 31 communities served by SLFNHA.”

- Janet Gordon, Chief Operating Officer, Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority

For more information please contact: Michael Heintzman, Director of Communications – (807) 621-2790 or by email mheintzman@nan.on.ca

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