Barriers and Mitigating Strategies to Healthcare Access in Indigenous Communities of Canada: A Narrative Review

Healthcare (Basel). 2020 Apr 26;8(2):112. doi: 10.3390/healthcare8020112.


The objective of this review is to document contemporary barriers to accessing healthcare faced by Indigenous people of Canada and approaches taken to mitigate these concerns. A narrative review of the literature was conducted. Barriers to healthcare access and mitigating strategies were aligned into three categories: proximal, intermediate, and distal barriers. Proximal barriers include geography, education attainment, and negative bias among healthcare professionals resulting in a lack of or inadequate immediate care in Indigenous communities. Intermediate barriers comprise of employment and income inequities and health education systems that are not accessible to Indigenous people. Distal barriers include colonialism, racism and social exclusion, resulting in limited involvement of Indigenous people in policy making and planning to address community healthcare needs. Several mitigation strategies initiated across Canada to address the inequitable health concerns include allocation of financial support for infrastructure development in Indigenous communities, increases in Indigenous education and employment, development of culturally sensitive education and medical systems and involvement of Indigenous communities and elders in the policy-making system. Indigenous people in Canada face systemic/policy barriers to equitable healthcare access. Addressing these barriers by strengthening services and building capacity within communities while integrating input from Indigenous communities is essential to improve accessibility.

Keywords: Indigenous communities; healthcare accessibility; social determinants of health.

Publication types

  • Review