Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 105, Issue 2, pp e133–e137 | Cite as

Inuit family understandings of sexual health and relationships in Nunavut

  • Gwen K. Healey
Qualitative Research


OBJECTIVE: To explore Inuit family understandings of sexual health and relationships in order to inform responsive public health interventions that are designed to meet the needs of Nunavummiut.

METHOD: A qualitative indigenous knowledge approach was used for this study with a focus on Inuit epistemology and methodology, as described in the Piliriqatigiinniq Community Health Research Partnership Model. Interviews were conducted with 20 parents in three Nunavut communities in 2011. An immersion and crystallization analytical approach was used to analyze the data and to identify groupings or themes in the data. The stories shared by parents are honoured, keeping their words intact as often as possible in the presentation of results.

RESULTS: Parents in this study largely discussed sexual health in the context of historical community events related to settlement and/or residential schools. Residential schools and forced settlement into communities were linked to trauma, family separation, hardship and grief. These experiences were prominent in participants’ understandings of sexual health and perceptions of sexual health behaviours among youth in the community.

CONCLUSION: This study highlights the complexity of the landscape of sexual health in Nunavut and the need for public health approaches that are inclusive of Inuit family perspectives on sexual health. Greater understanding of historical and community context can contribute to the development of pertinent, evidence-based public health interventions that will meet the needs of the population.


Inuit family health social determinants of health indigenous population reproductive health 


OBJECTIF: Explorer les connaissances des familles inuites en matière de santé sexuelle et de relations sexuelles afin d’éclairer la mise au point d’interventions de santé publique sensibles aux besoins de la population du Nunavut.

MÉTHODE: Nous avons utilisé une démarche qualitative basée sur le savoir indigène pour cette étude, en mettant l’accent sur l’épistémologie et la méthodologie inuites décrites dans le modèle de partenariats de recherche en santé communautaire Piliriqatigiinniq. Nous avons interviewé 20 parents dans trois communautés du Nunavut en 2011. Au moyen d’une démarche analytique d’immersion et de cristallisation, nous avons analysé les données et nous en avons dégagé des regroupements ou des thèmes. Nous avons honoré les histoires partagées par les parents en les transcrivant mot à mot, dans la mesure du possible, dans la présentation des résultats.

RÉSULTATS: Les parents de l’étude ont surtout discuté de santé sexuelle dans le contexte d’événements communautaires historiques liés au peuplement et/ou aux pensionnats. Les pensionnats et l’établissement forcé dans des communautés ont été associés à des traumatismes, des séparations de familles, des difficultés exceptionnelles et des deuils. Ces expériences étaient dominantes dans la compréhension de la santé sexuelle chez les participants et dans leurs perceptions des comportements sexuels liés à la santé chez les jeunes de la communauté.

CONCLUSION: L’étude fait ressortir la complexité du paysage de la santé sexuelle au Nunavut et le besoin de démarches de santé publique qui tiennent compte des perspectives des familles inuites sur la santé sexuelle. Une meilleure connaissance du contexte historique et communautaire peut contribuer à l’élaboration d’interventions de santé publique pertinentes, fondées sur des données probantes, qui répondront aux besoins de la population.

Mots clés

Inuits santé de la famille déterminants sociaux de la santé population indigène santé génésique 


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gwen K. Healey
    • 1
  1. 1.Qaujigiartiit Health Research CentreIqaluitCanada

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