A ray of hope in the fight against tuberculosis in Nunavik
The Sailivik center was inaugurated last October in the community of Kangiqsualujjuaq.
The Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services is setting up a new center for the prevention of infectious diseases in Kangiqsualujjuaq, in order to eradicate tuberculosis and restore a bond of trust with the population.
Despite many efforts, the disease continues to spread in Nunavik at an uncontrolled rate. More than 30 new cases were recorded in the region in 2022.
Tuberculosis [case] rates are equivalent to several developing countries, for different reasons. […] But the main reason, in my opinion, are the living conditions which are unfavorable, such as the lack of housing and food insecurity, explains the director of public health of Nunavik, Marie Rochette.
The Director of Public Health at the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, Marie Rochette.
Public health is also noticing a certain reluctance among part of the population to getting tested, which hampers prevention efforts. This reluctance is said to be partly due to the forced confinement of many Inuit at the turn of the 1950s and 60s.
A hospital ship, dispatched by the federal government, then carried several people to sanatoriums in the south of the province. Several succumbed to the disease, without their families being informed.
People with abnormal chest X-rays were confined and deported, without the possibility of saying goodbye to their family (archives).
Obviously, this marks generations. When we talk about tuberculosis, even if the treatments are no longer the same and it is rare for the person to require a transfer to the South to be hospitalized, the disease retains these stigmas, explains Dr. Marie Rochette.
Regional public health is therefore trying a new approach, with the creation of the Sailivik centre, which was inaugurated in Kangiqsualujjuaq last October. Community members and health workers will provide screening and disease prevention services.
For public health and local authorities, it was important to offer these services outside the clinic facilities. The CLSC is very much associated with acute illness. We go there when we are sick or injured. So they want to have a different, comfortable place where they would feel confident, adds Dr. Marie Rochette.
Less than 1000 people live in the community of Kangiqsualujjuaq, on the banks of the George River.
< p class="e-p">The service offer has yet to be determined, but other infectious diseases could also be treated there, such as STBBIs. Public health first wants to take the measure of the needs of the population and adjust accordingly.
This prevention center model could be replicated in other communities if the need is expressed. The goal would be to reduce transmission to one case of TB every five to seven years by 2030.
However, Dr. Marie Rochette is under no illusions about the challenges in the fight against tuberculosis. According to her, an improvement in living conditions and an increase in the housing supply in Nunavik will be necessary to reach this target.