Three lifestyle-related issues of major significance for public health among the Inuit in contemporary Greenland

A review of adverse childhood conditions, obesity, and smoking in a period of social transition

Peter Bjerregaard*, Christina V.L. Larsen

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Greenland is a country in transition from a colonial past with subsistence hunting and fishing to an urban Nordic welfare state. Epidemiological transition from infectious to chronic diseases has been evident since the 1950s. Ninety percent of the population is Inuit. We studied three public health issues based on published literature, namely adverse childhood experiences, addictive behavior, and suicide; diet and obesity; and smoking. Alcohol consumption was high in the 1970s and 1980s with accompanying family and social disruption. This is still a cause of poor mental health and suicides in the generations most affected. The diet is changing from a traditional diet of fish and marine mammals to imported food including food items rich in sugar and fat from domestic animals, and the level of physical activity is decreasing with an ensuing epidemic rise in obesity. The prevalence of smoking is high at around 60% among both men and women and is only slowly decreasing. Smoking shows large social variation, and tobacco-related diseases are widespread. The diseases and conditions outlined above all contribute towards a low life expectancy at birth-69 years for men and 74 years for women in 2011-2015-compared with 78 and 84 years for men and women, respectively, on average in the European countries. The translation of government public health programs into local activities needs strengthening, and it must be realized that the improvement of public health is a longterm process.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5
JournalPublic Health Reviews
Volume39
Number of pages12
ISSN2107-6952
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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Greenland
Pediatric Obesity
Public Health
Smoking
Diet
Addictive Behavior
Food
Life Expectancy
Alcohol Drinking
Mammals
Mental Health
Fishes
Fats
Exercise
Population

Keywords

  • Alcohol
  • Diet
  • Greenland
  • Inuit
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Suicide

Cite this

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title = "Three lifestyle-related issues of major significance for public health among the Inuit in contemporary Greenland: A review of adverse childhood conditions, obesity, and smoking in a period of social transition",
abstract = "Greenland is a country in transition from a colonial past with subsistence hunting and fishing to an urban Nordic welfare state. Epidemiological transition from infectious to chronic diseases has been evident since the 1950s. Ninety percent of the population is Inuit. We studied three public health issues based on published literature, namely adverse childhood experiences, addictive behavior, and suicide; diet and obesity; and smoking. Alcohol consumption was high in the 1970s and 1980s with accompanying family and social disruption. This is still a cause of poor mental health and suicides in the generations most affected. The diet is changing from a traditional diet of fish and marine mammals to imported food including food items rich in sugar and fat from domestic animals, and the level of physical activity is decreasing with an ensuing epidemic rise in obesity. The prevalence of smoking is high at around 60{\%} among both men and women and is only slowly decreasing. Smoking shows large social variation, and tobacco-related diseases are widespread. The diseases and conditions outlined above all contribute towards a low life expectancy at birth-69 years for men and 74 years for women in 2011-2015-compared with 78 and 84 years for men and women, respectively, on average in the European countries. The translation of government public health programs into local activities needs strengthening, and it must be realized that the improvement of public health is a longterm process.",
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N2 - Greenland is a country in transition from a colonial past with subsistence hunting and fishing to an urban Nordic welfare state. Epidemiological transition from infectious to chronic diseases has been evident since the 1950s. Ninety percent of the population is Inuit. We studied three public health issues based on published literature, namely adverse childhood experiences, addictive behavior, and suicide; diet and obesity; and smoking. Alcohol consumption was high in the 1970s and 1980s with accompanying family and social disruption. This is still a cause of poor mental health and suicides in the generations most affected. The diet is changing from a traditional diet of fish and marine mammals to imported food including food items rich in sugar and fat from domestic animals, and the level of physical activity is decreasing with an ensuing epidemic rise in obesity. The prevalence of smoking is high at around 60% among both men and women and is only slowly decreasing. Smoking shows large social variation, and tobacco-related diseases are widespread. The diseases and conditions outlined above all contribute towards a low life expectancy at birth-69 years for men and 74 years for women in 2011-2015-compared with 78 and 84 years for men and women, respectively, on average in the European countries. The translation of government public health programs into local activities needs strengthening, and it must be realized that the improvement of public health is a longterm process.

AB - Greenland is a country in transition from a colonial past with subsistence hunting and fishing to an urban Nordic welfare state. Epidemiological transition from infectious to chronic diseases has been evident since the 1950s. Ninety percent of the population is Inuit. We studied three public health issues based on published literature, namely adverse childhood experiences, addictive behavior, and suicide; diet and obesity; and smoking. Alcohol consumption was high in the 1970s and 1980s with accompanying family and social disruption. This is still a cause of poor mental health and suicides in the generations most affected. The diet is changing from a traditional diet of fish and marine mammals to imported food including food items rich in sugar and fat from domestic animals, and the level of physical activity is decreasing with an ensuing epidemic rise in obesity. The prevalence of smoking is high at around 60% among both men and women and is only slowly decreasing. Smoking shows large social variation, and tobacco-related diseases are widespread. The diseases and conditions outlined above all contribute towards a low life expectancy at birth-69 years for men and 74 years for women in 2011-2015-compared with 78 and 84 years for men and women, respectively, on average in the European countries. The translation of government public health programs into local activities needs strengthening, and it must be realized that the improvement of public health is a longterm process.

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