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Can J Public Health. 2008 Jan-Feb;99(1):17-21.

Living with diabetes on Baffin Island: Inuit storytellers share their experiences.

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Department of Agriculture and Environmental Science, School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, Centre for Indigenous Peoples' Nutrition and the Environment, Macdonald Campus of McGill University, Ste-Anne-de Bellevue, QC.



The prevention and management of Type 2 diabetes mellitus has become a concern in Inuit communities across Canada. Although Inuit living with diabetes in remote Canadian Arctic communities could help guide the development of health services, their voices have not been heard. The experiences and perceptions of Inuit themselves are often overlooked in research. In this study, Inuit living in a small rural Arctic community on Baffin Island were invited to share their experiences of living with diabetes.


A qualitative multi-case study approach was taken. In-depth interviews (n=4), field observations, and informal interviews over one month in the community were used to build and contextualize the cases. In-depth interviews were transcribed, and analyzed using holistic thematic analysis and open coding.


Accessibility was a concern with respect to foods, health knowledge, language interpretation and health services. In all methods of analysis, the importance of language and effective cross-cultural communication figured prominently. It was also evident that trust and rapport is crucial when discussing diabetes. There was strong interest in promoting diabetes education and prevention within the community.


These findings suggest that current health education and services may not be adequate for this setting. The voices of Inuit should be integral in steering the direction of their future diabetes education and health service delivery. Focusing on language barriers may help to improve the accessibility of knowledge about diabetes and nutrition, and enhance relationships between non-Inuit health service providers and Inuit.

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