Engaging Numbers: Developing Health Indicators that Matter for First Nations and Inuit People

  • Bonnie Jeffery Faculty of Social Work, Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit (SPHERU), University of Regina
  • Sylvia Abonyl Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, SPHERU, University of Saskatchewan
  • Ronald Labonte Institute of Population Health, University of Ottawa
  • Kerrie Duncan Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
Keywords: Community health, community capacity, population health indicators, First Nations, Inuit


This paper addresses citizen participation in the development of community-level health and capacity indicators with a specific focus on processes that can be used to engage community members in indicator development. It is based on work that the authors completed with the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) in 2002 and work they have been conducting in partnership with the Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) and Athabasca Health Authority (AHA) in northern Saskatchewan.The latter project developed tools for First Nations health organizations to assess the impacts of their health and social service programs on community wellness and capacity.The project included a critical review of existing community-level population health indicators and indicator frameworks, the identification of gaps in the literature related to culturally appropriate community health indicators, and the utilization of a process by which these indicators might be implemented and tracked by First Nations health organizations at the community level.

In addition to the results of our work to date,we highlight some of the literature that specifically addresses Aboriginal conceptions of community health and community capacity along with an assessment of gaps in the literature in the context of culturally appropriate indicators.We conclude by discussing the processes that we have used with Inuit health groups and community-based First Nations health organizations in identifying culturally appropriate and relevant community health and capacity indicators.