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Healthy Teeth, Healthy Lives: The Inuit Oral Health Action Plan, Successful First Year

Media Release
April 25, 2014

Ottawa, ON – April marks National Oral Health Month and one year of success towards improving Inuit oral health. In response to growing concerns about the state of Oral Health among Inuit, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), along with three Inuit Land Claim Organizations (Nunatsiavut Government, Nunavut Tunngavik INc, and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation) released Healthy Teeth, Healthy Lives: The Inuit Oral Health Action Plan in April of 2013. According to Health Canada’s Inuit Oral Health Survey, over 85% of Inuit preschoolers have on average roughly eight teeth that are decayed, missing, or filled, a prevalence that unfortunately increases with age. The Inuit Oral Health Action Plan marks a call to action for multiple stakeholders to address the staggeringly high rates of oral disease among Inuit in Canada and identifies a collaborative approach to addressing the underlying determinants of poor oral health with a focus on prevention, mobilization of families, and better access to treatment.

“Since the launch of the Action Plan in April, 2013, we have already made great gains in working towards the goals and recommendations laid out in the report,” said Terry Audla, National Inuit Leader and President of ITK. “We see the Inuit Oral Health Action Plan as a very important step in improving oral health among Inuit and, in these early stages, it is showing signs of success.” During the summer of 2013, ITK sent out Inuit-specific oral health promotion kits to all Inuit communities in partnership with the four Inuit Land Claim Organizations, which incorporated messaging from the Canadian Dental Association adapted for Inuit and printed in four languages. The kits, housed in water bottles, contained oral health sundries along with prevention messaging delivered in the Inuit languages.

“It is very encouraging to see the progress being made to reduce the burden of oral health diseases among the Inuit population,” said Dr. Peter Cooney, Chief Dental Officer, Public  Health Agency of Canada. “Efforts such as these, focused on oral health promotion and community-based primary preventive measures, will have a long-term positive impact on the health of the Inuit.”

ITK also contributed the Inuit oral health kits to a Nunavut-specific community oral health initiative focused on children lead by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Government of Nunavut, and Health Canada, with involvement by Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated.

“Research shows that good oral health practice can lead to improved overall health outcomes,” said the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister for the Arctic Council. “The Government of Canada is pleased to be a partner in this worthwhile project and we look forward to its continued success.”

“The Canadian Dental Association congratulates ITK on the one-year anniversary of Healthy Teeth, Healthy Lives: Inuit Oral Health Action Plan. The CDA’s leadership was pleased to participate in the launch of this initiative last year, and we applaud their leadership and continued work towards addressing the oral health issue amongst Inuit,” said CDA President, Dr. Gary MacDonald. “The CDA considers ITK an important partner in our advocacy work, and we look forward to continuing to work with them on oral health promotion and in advocating for patients whose care is supported by Health Canada’s Non-insured Health Benefits program.”

ITK is currently working with the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association (CDHA) and Inuit Land Claim Organizations to adapt and produce Inuit-specific prevention resources for Inuit communities, which will be available at in the coming weeks.

“Improving Inuit oral health requires collaboration among many oral health stakeholders, and CDHA is pleased to be included in these initiatives,” said Ondina Love, Executive Director of the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association. “CDHA and ITK have collaborated on the development of oral health promotion materials that are specifically designed for an Inuit audience. CDHA is committed to improving the oral health status of Inuit and looks forward to continued work with ITK.”

“Promotion of optimal oral hygiene is only part of the solution; overall improvements to the delivery of oral health services must also be addressed in Inuit Nunangat. Achievement of the Action Plan’s goals will require the active engagement of Inuit and a variety of partners in the development of sustainable solutions,” continued Audla. “ITK is ready to engage with oral health providers, federal and provincial/territorial governments, and National Associations to work together on the eight action areas to improve Inuit oral health.”

For More Information, please contact:
Erin Filliter
Director of Communications