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‘So little information’: Researchers point out lack of work-injury data on Indigenous people

Photo: THEPALMER/iStockphoto

Chicago — A group of researchers is calling for an increase in occupational health and safety research focused on Indigenous people.

Examining more than 1,500 peer-reviewed studies that evaluated both Indigenous workers and occupational injuries in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand since 1970, researchers from the University of Illinois Chicago found only 51 that featured occupational health data for Indigenous people. Of those, 13 focused exclusively on Indigenous people, and just one included work-related psychological injuries.

“There’s so little information,” researcher Brett Shannon, a UIC doctoral candidate and descendent of the Australian Ngugi people, said in a press release. “If someone has diabetes or chronic heart disease, they’re at risk of poorer outcomes without medical intervention following a work injury. And there’s psychosocial factors that require consideration as well.”

Data shows that, overall, Indigenous people in the four countries studied are two to three times more likely to die from injury than non-Indigenous people. To help develop strategies for preventing on-the-job death and injury among these groups, Shannon and his fellow researchers recommend:

  • Better sampling strategies and inclusion of demographic questions that capture the status of Indigenous workers in surveys.
  • The use of workers’ compensation data and other commonly used sources to develop baseline data for targeted future interventions.
  • Providing Indigenous people with resources and incentives to lead research and data collection.

The study was published online in the British Medical Journal of Occupational Health and Medicine.

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