May 22, 2009

Immunization reduces Inuit illness risk

Public health interventions and an enhanced immunization program could improve health for Inuit children and lower healthcare costs, Canadian researchers say.

Dr. Anna Banerji, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, said respiratory infections are the leading cause for admission, medical evacuation and expenditure for Inuit children in the healthcare system and can result in serious health complications for those affected.

Infants of Inuit race were nearly four times more likely to be admitted for lower respiratory tract infections than mixed or non-Inuit infants, Banerji said in a statement.

Banerji demonstrated that by immunizing rural Inuit infants with the vaccine, the healthcare system could save money -- up to $8,000 per admission avoided.

The analysis concludes that preventative measures in infancy can both improve the health of children and result in a significant cost savings for the healthcare system.

Banerji's papers are posted online ahead of print Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal.