Journal of Public Health

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 475–483 | Cite as

Unmet healthcare needs among indigenous peoples in Canada: findings from the 2006 and 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Surveys

  • Piotr Wilk
  • Alana Maltby
  • Joel Phillips
Original Article



The objective of this study was to assess and compare the prevalence of self-reported unmet healthcare needs (UHN) among Canadian indigenous groups using the 2006 and 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Surveys (APS).

Subject and methods

Frequency distributions and cross tabulations were produced to estimate the proportion of indigenous people who reported UHN in 2006 and 2012 and for sub-populations, based on indigenous identity, gender, age, geographic region and urban/rural area. Additionally, frequency distributions were produced for reasons for UHN and types of care needed. Standard errors and confidence intervals were calculated and took into account bootstrap weights.


In 2006, 11.65% (CI: 11.04, 12.26) of indigenous people reported UHN, and this proportion significantly increased to 13.74% (CI: 12.88, 14.60) in 2012. UHN varied among indigenous identities; however, only Inuit had a significant difference in UHN between 2006 (10.19%, CI: 9.05, 11.33) and 2012 (14.58%, CI: 12.57, 16.59). Individuals aged 18–34 years, females, and those in the Prairies and Territories and in urban areas had significant differences in UHN. The most common reasons for UHN were related to availability, and the majority of respondents reported needing care for physical health problems.


Further research is warranted that examines the association between general factors related to UHN and indigenous-specific factors. Additionally, assessing how chronic disease impacts UHN will provide information on reasons for UHN (e.g., healthcare system-related versus personal circumstances).


Unmet healthcare needs Indigenous health Healthcare services Canada 



[Author’s name suppressed] was supported by the ‘Children’s Heart Health’ grant from the Children’s Health Foundation.

[Author’s name suppresssed] was supported by the ‘Schulich Research Opportunities Program’ grant from the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

Ethical approval was not needed as the study relied on anonymous and confidential secondary data from Statistics Canada. Consent from respondents was obtained at the time of data collection. Formal consent was not required for our study. Data were provided by Statistics Canada through the Research Data Centers Program and accessed under the Statistics Act of Canada. The analyses and interpretation are the authors’ alone.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Epidemiology & BiostatisticsWestern UniversityLondonCanada
  2. 2.Department of PaediatricsWestern UniversityLondonCanada
  3. 3.Children’s Health Research InstituteLondonCanada
  4. 4.Schulich School of Medicine & DentistryWestern UniversityLondonCanada

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