UNBC: BC Results of Study into First Nations Dietary and Environmental Health Released

Study finds that First Nations diets are significantly improved with access to traditional foods

March 3, 2011

A University of Northern British Columbia-led study into nutritional and environmental factors affecting health and well-being in BC’s First Nations communities has been released. The results of the First Nations Food, Nutrition, and Environment Study (FNFNES) focused on BC reveal that although there tend to be higher risks of obesity and related illness in First Nations communities, the risks lessen at times when traditional foods are consumed.The BC Regional Report represents the first results of the FNFNES to be released and is part of a national ten-year study funded by Health Canada, with participation from UNBC, the Assembly of First Nations, and the Université de Montréal. The study was conducted with full participation of twenty-one BC First Nations communities and locally recruited community research assistants collected all the data and samples.

Click to view a map of all the participating communities.

The report’s research was led by BC Leadership Chair in Aboriginal Environmental Health and UNBC professor Laurie Chan. “The results of the study indicate that the nutritional health of Aboriginal communities is most positively affected when they have broad access to traditional methods of harvesting foods such as fish, moose, and berries,” says Dr. Chan. “However, many of the participants in the study reported limitations to accessing traditional foods, including governmental restrictions, forestry, hydro installations, and mining. Nearly seventy-five percent of participants also identified global warming as being a hindering factor.”

Notably, chemical contamination of traditional foods and medicines by environmental contaminants was not found to be overly significant. “As for water quality, we found that most of the participating communities have a steady supply of good drinking water,” says Dr. Chan. “Four communities reported boil water advisories, but most had water treatment facilities available and in use.”

The BC Regional Report represents the first part of the ten-year First Nations Food, Nutrition, and Environmental Study. In total, 100 communities across Canada will be involved. Analysis is currently underway on data gathered in Manitoba, and Ontario is set to begin implementation.

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Click on a thumbnail to access a high resolution image of Dr. Laurie Chan.


Laurie Chan, BC Leadship Chair, Aboriginal Environmental Health, UNBC – 250.960.5237
Michael Kellett, Communications Officer, UNBC -250.960.5621

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