Tradition and Culture: An Important Determinant of Inuit Women’s Health

Gwen K. Healey

Abstract


This exploratory qualitative study used a case study method to explore Inuit women’s perspectives on their health and well-being. Data were gathered using face-to-face interviews from a purposive sample of women in one Nunavut community who self-identified as Inuit. Data analysis and interpretation were guided by an established approach in qualitative research called “immersion/crystallization.” Various strategies, including methods of verification and validition, were employed to ensure the scientific rigour and reliability of the study’s findings. The mechanisms through which culture and tradition affected women’s perceptions of health and well-being were clearly illustrated and clearly significant to the interview subjects. Women used examples of teenage pregnancy and parenting issues to illustrate traditional practices in Nunavut communities and their significance in an increasingly non-traditional society. Women stressed the importance of speaking Inuktitut and teaching it to their children. Many associated their ability to speak Inuktitut with their ties to Inuit traditions. Women described the grief experienced from loss of culture leading to problems related to identity, social inclusion and wellness. Culture and traditional knowledge were identified as key determinants of health for Canadian Inuit women. This study provides important information to inform and guide health promotion and illness prevention planning. The study will also help decision-makers and health professionals address some of the health issues affecting Inuit women by providing them with some insight into Inuit women’s local and contemporary circumstances. The results of this work can support local efforts to identify priorities for policy and program development relevant to Inuit women’s specific needs. Finally, the relevance of insight gained through the health perspectives of Inuit women in Nunavut deserves further investigation in relation to other Arctic regions, both in Canada and in the larger circumpolar community.

Keywords


Canadian Inuit, women’s health, determinants of health, culture, acculturation

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Aboriginal Health Research Networks Secretariat
Centre for Aboriginal Health
University of Victoria
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada