COVID-19 has deepened the lack of inequitable access to health care services for Indigenous youth. In some situations, youth and community members are reluctant to seek medical care or attention as clinics and hospitals are often COVID-19 hotspots.
Throughout the pandemic, many medical services or COVID-19 related programs have been geared to older demographics, often missing the youth population. There is also lack of information about health care services more generally when it comes to Indigenous youth, especially in urban areas. Overdose prevention, food security and community health, and living off-reserve where health care access points exist are all barriers facing off-reserve Indigenous youth.
Health data for Indigenous populations and including youth continues to be lacking in Canada.
There is an even further disparity between the on-reserve and off-reserve Indigenous populations. There are also challenges with data specific to Indigenous infection rates in urban areas, as there is a lack of baseline data and/or ongoing data collection. The problems with statistics are also evident in other health related areas, such as information on Indigenous deaths as a result of opioid use.
COVID-19 has also overshadowed the opioid crisis, and Indigenous youth are suffering as a result. Overdose deaths have been the highest on record in several Provinces and regions. The lack of government data collection on Indigenous youth access to health care services, and specifically the population of off-reserve Indigenous youth would help to better understand and tailor programs and services to meet the needs of this population.
The lack of Indigenous representation in the health care system such as with Practitioners who could offer cultural support is a major barrier to access, and leaves many feeling hesitant to access health services in settings that display racism and prejudice.
While COVID-19 vaccines are becoming more available, there is a misrepresentation of facts regarding access to the vaccine for the Indigenous population, as efforts are being focused for on-reserve status populations.