First Nations Community Well-Being Research and Large Data Sets: A Respectful Caution

  • Alexandra S. Drawson
  • Aislin R. Mushquash
  • Christopher J. Mushquash
Keywords: Language, large data sets, social determinants of health, well-being, First Nations


Health researchers are increasingly encouraged to use large, community-level data sets to examine factors that promote or diminish health, including social determinants. First Nations people in Canada experience disparity in a range of social determinants of health that result in relatively low community well-being scores, when compared to non-First Nations people. However, First Nations people also possess unique protective factors that enhance well-being, such as traditional language usage. Large data sets offer First Nations a new avenue for advocating for supports and services to decrease health inequity while developing culture-based evidence. However, care must be taken to ensure that these data are interpreted appropriately. In this paper, we respectfully offer a cautionary note on the importance of understanding culture and context when conducting First Nations health research with large data sets. We have framed this caution through a narrative presentation of a simple and concrete example. We then outline some approaches to research that can ensure appropriate development of research questions and interpretation of research findings.

Research Papers