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Cultural continuity, traditional Indigenous language, and diabetes in Alberta First Nations: A mixed methods study

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Introduction: We used an exploratory sequential mixed methods approach to study the association between cultural continuity, self-determination, and diabetes prevalence in First Nations in Alberta, Canada. Methods: We conducted a qualitative description where we interviewed 10 Cree and Blackfoot leaders (members of Chief and Council) from across the province to understand cultural continuity, self-determination, and their relationship to health and diabetes, in the Alberta First Nations context. Based on the qualitative findings, we then conducted a cross-sectional analysis using provincial administrative data and publically available data for 31 First Nations communities to quantitatively examine any relationship between cultural continuity and diabetes prevalence. Results: Cultural continuity, or "being who we are", is foundational to health in successful First Nations. Self-determination, or "being a self-sufficient Nation", stems from cultural continuity and is seriously compromised in today's Alberta Cree and Blackfoot Nations. Unfortunately, First Nations are in a continuous struggle with government policy. The intergenerational effects of colonization continue to impact the culture, which undermines the sense of self-determination, and contributes to diabetes and ill health. Crude diabetes prevalence varied dramatically among First Nations with values as low as 1.2% and as high as 18.3%. Those First Nations that appeared to have more cultural continuity (measured by traditional Indigenous language knowledge) had significantly lower diabetes prevalence after adjustment for socio-economic factors (p =0.007). Conclusions: First Nations that have been better able to preserve their culture may be relatively protected from diabetes.




Oster, R. T., Grier, A., Lightning, R., Mayan, M. J., & Toth, E. L. (2014). Cultural continuity, traditional Indigenous language, and diabetes in Alberta First Nations: A mixed methods study. International Journal for Equity in Health, 13(1).

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