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Discover, Respect & Celebrate: Embracing National Indigenous Heritage Month

June is celebrated as National Indigenous Heritage Month in Canada. This is a time for deep reflection, celebration, and recognition of the cultural heritage and experiences of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis. During the month, the public has an opportunity to dig deeper and learn about the different cultures and deep-rooted traditions that are celebrated by the Indigenous Peoples here in Canada.

At TARGet Kids!, we believe in supporting Indigenous Peoples which includes highlighting differences, inequalities and gaps in health and healthcare that exist within their communities. In this National Indigenous Heritage Month, we would like to highlight the unique health issues Indigenous children face growing up, and look at the potential for further research that is needed to improve healthcare delivery in a holistic and comprehensive way to Indigenous Peoples.

One area of note is developmental milestones which are significant points in a child’s growth that serve as important guidelines for parents and health care professionals to determine how well a child is developing (1). By understanding and using these milestones, caregivers can better nurture their children’s development and work with their healthcare providers to give their children the support needed for healthy growth and development.

One researcher noted that Indigenous children are known to be at higher risk for living in poor social and economic conditions (2). These children are also at risk for poor outcomes as newborns, language problems and poor school outcomes (3). However, in a study looking at developmental milestones in Indigenous children in Canada, researchers found that Metis, Inuit, and off-reserve First Nations children developed gross motor skills (such as sitting and walking) and self-help skills at earlier ages when compared to non-Indigenous Canadian children (4). Language skills on the other hand, were developed slightly later in Indigenous children (4). The researchers also found that milestone delays in Indigenous children was associated with poorer health, low birth weight and a mixture of chronic conditions and/or limitations in physical activity (4).

This research highlights that there are differences in the health experiences of Indigenous children in Canada which impact their health outcomes and life. The differences in milestone achievements between Indigenous children and non-Indigenous children in Canada must be taken into consideration when developing programs and providing healthcare to Indigenous populations. Targeted efforts, such as determining culturally specific age ranges for milestone achievement for Indigenous children, are needed to improve the health outcomes and lives of Indigenous children. By recognizing these cultural differences, we can better support the unique needs of Indigenous children.

1. WHO Multicentre Growth Reference Study Group, & de Onis, M. (2006). WHO Motor Development Study: windows of achievement for six gross motor development milestones. Acta paediatrica, 95, 86-95.

2. Frideres, J., White J., Beavon D., & Spence N. (2007) Aboriginal Well-Being: Canada’s Continuing Challenge. Canadian Ethnic Studies, 39 (3), page 218.

3. Simonet F., Wilkins R., & Luo Z.C. (2012). Temporal trends in Inuit, First Nations and non-Aboriginal birth outcomes in rural and northern Quebec. International Journal of Circumpolar Health, 71(1), 18791–10.

4. Findlay L., Kohen D., & Miller A. (2014). Developmental milestones among Aboriginal children in Canada.Paediatrics & Child Health, Volume 19, Issue 5, pages 241–246.

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