By Inuit, for Inuit: Qanuippitaa? National Inuit Health Survey gets underway in Inuvialuit region

By Inuit, for Inuit: Qanuippitaa? National Inuit Health Survey gets underway in Inuvialuit region

‘Qanuippitaa?’ asks, in Inuktut, ‘How are we doing?’

“Do you want to get out more on the land?” That’s one of the questions being asked of Inuvialuit community members in a national Inuit-led survey underway in the Beaufort-Delta region.

The Inuvialuit are the first to begin the cross-Canada survey, which looks at their health and wellness.

The Qanuippitaa? National Inuit Health Survey was developed by Inuit from across the country, with the help of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), the national Inuit organization. Qanuippitaa? means “How are we doing?” in Inuktitut.

Data collection for the Canada-wide Inuit health survey began in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region in northern N.W.T. on Jan. 18. The survey aims to generate a picture of the health of Inuit, and what can be done to improve it.

The information collected is anonymous and will help monitor and inform policies and programs for Inuit across the country.

Western Arctic Inuvialuit are the first group of Inuit across the country to be participating in a nationwide Inuit Health Survey. It’s called Qanuippitaa? or ‘How are we doing?’ in Inuktut. 3:27

survey of the same name was first conducted in 2004 in Quebec’s Nunavik Region. This survey however, is the first one to span the country, said Nally Rowan-Weetaluktuk, who’s helping lead the project for ITK.

Rowan-Weetaluktuk said the survey will repeat in five years.

The survey was first announced in 2018. The federal government has committed $82 million over 10 years, as well as $6 million a year ongoing, for the permanent survey.

“We are looking to really understand from an Inuit perspective, what are the gaps? And what are the strengths?” Rowan-Weetaluktuk said, describing how Qanuippitaa? is different from other surveys run by governments or universities.

“The most important part is that the data is reflective of Inuit life,” said Rowan-Weetaluktuk, who is Inuk, originally from Kuujjuaq, Que. “And that requires adapting the ways in which we collect data, ensuring that our field workers are from the region [and] that they’re well trained.”

Olivia Sydney, a field worker for Qanuippitaa? National Inuit Health Survey in Inuvik. (Karli Zschogner/CBC)

“I’m really excited, not only doing the survey itself, but it offered a lot of good training, like suicide prevention training,” said field worker Olivia Sydney of Inuvik.

Sydney, who is 19, is one of seven Inuvialuit and two Gwich’in field workers hired by the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation.

The field workers are traveling across the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, collecting confidential information about people’s mental and physical health.

Sydney said survey questions range from topics like food insecurity to dental health, “which is another thing that’s been really neglected up here and we’re hoping to get better services.”

People share their experiences with a field worker in a private booth, before meeting with a nurse and dental hygienist. The whole process takes about an hour.

In larger communities, like Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk, participants were selected at random. In smaller ones like Sachs Harbour, anyone can take part.

Participants get a $50 gift certificate for completing each element of the survey, for a total of $100. In Inuvik, it’s for Stanton’s grocery store.

Sydney, who took the survey herself, said it’s been “nice to interact, learn from, and understand what [Inuit] are going through.

“This has helped me get out of my shell a lot,” she said.

Sadie Lester of Paulatuk, is another field worker for Qanuippitaa? National Inuit Health Survey. (Karli Zschogner/CBC)

Sadie Lester from Paulatuk is another Inuvialuit field worker. She helps participants feel comfortable.

“It is heartbreaking knowing that there’s a lot of Inuit here up north that do need help,” said Lester. “We do need the programs here in every community to help and Inuit here live a better life.”

Lester, herself a residential school survivor, said she hopes the survey leads to programs that can help people heal. “There’s no need to be ashamed,” she said. “Through counselling, through drug and alcohol programs, I find that you don’t have to live that violence of abuse, you can break the circle.”

The last day for Inuvialuit to do the survey is May 16 in Sachs Harbour. Elizabeth Kolb, a spokesperson for the IRC, said it will take about a year to compile the results.

In addition to Inuit Nunangat — which includes the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut — the survey will be conducted in southern regions as well, starting with Ottawa.