Early Inuit Child Health in Canada: Report 1: Sleep Practices among Inuit Infants and the Prevention of SIDS

By January 5, 2012 No Comments

For Inuit, “the birth of each child continues to be an event that is eagerly anticipated and cause for celebration”(1).Unfortunately, a recent study found the infant mortality rate to be more than 3 times higher among Inuit infants than the overall Canadian rate. There were 16.5 mortalities/1000 live births in Inuit inhabited areas compared to 4.6/1000 live births in the rest of Canada(2), a rate not seen in the general population of Canada since the early 1970’s. In particular, the post-neonatal death rate, described as death within the period of 29 days to one year, was disproportionately high. A contributing factor to this is the elevated rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) among Inuit, which was measured at 7.4 times the overall Canadian rate (5.2/1000 vs. 0.7/1000). These results are consistent with those observed a decade ago when studies showed that infant mortality in Canadian Aboriginal populations (including Inuit) was 3-7 times higher than the national rate(3), with preterm birth and SIDS being the two main causes(4).

To gain a better understanding of sleep practices amount Inuit infants, the University of Victoria, in partnership with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), developed this report using data from the 2006 Aboriginal Children’s Survey (ACS). The sleep practices of Inuit infants were analyzed and relevant research about SIDS reviewed. The outcomes of this paper reveal the need for health promotion programs, policies and tools, which better support Inuit families and contribute to the prevention of SIDS in Inuit Nunangat.