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Early-life origins of disparities in chronic diseases among Indigenous youth: pathways to recovering health disparities from intergenerational trauma

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 September 2018

W. Phillips-Beck
Nanaandawewigamig – First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
S. Sinclair
Nanaandawewigamig – First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
R. Campbell
Nanaandawewigamig – First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
L. Star
Nanaandawewigamig – First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
J. Cidro
Department of Anthropology, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
B. Wicklow
Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada The DEVOTION Network, Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
L. Guillemette
Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada The DEVOTION Network, Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
M. I. Morris
Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada The DEVOTION Network, Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
J. M. McGavock
Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada The DEVOTION Network, Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
E-mail address:


Indigenous women and children experience some of the most profound health disparities globally. These disparities are grounded in historical and contemporary trauma secondary to colonial atrocities perpetuated by settler society. The health disparities that exist for chronic diseases may have their origins in early-life exposures that Indigenous women and children face. Mechanistically, there is evidence that these adverse exposures epigenetically modify genes associated with cardiometabolic disease risk. Interventions designed to support a resilient pregnancy and first 1000 days of life should abrogate disparities in early-life socioeconomic status. Breastfeeding, prenatal care and early child education are key targets for governments and health care providers to start addressing current health disparities in cardiometabolic diseases among Indigenous youth. Programmes grounded in cultural safety and co-developed with communities have successfully reduced health disparities. More works of this kind are needed to reduce inequities in cardiometabolic diseases among Indigenous women and children worldwide.

© Cambridge University Press and the International Society for Developmental Origins of Health and Disease 2018 

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