Addressing the need for indigenous and decolonized quantitative research methods in Canada

SSM Popul Health. 2021 Aug 18;15:100899. doi: 10.1016/j.ssmph.2021.100899. eCollection 2021 Sep.


Though qualitative methods are often an appropriate Indigenous methodology and have dominated the literature on Indigenous research methods, they are not the only methods available for health research. There is a need for decolonizing and Indigenizing quantitative research methods, particularly in the discipline of epidemiology, to better address the public health needs of Indigenous populations who continue to face health inequities because of colonial systems, as well as inaccurate and incomplete data collection about themselves. For the last two decades, researchers in colonized countries have been calling for a specifically Indigenous approach to epidemiology that recognizes the limits of Western epidemiological methods, incorporates more Indigenous research methodologies and community-based participatory research methods, builds capacity by training more Indigenous epidemiologists, and supports Indigenous self-determination. Indigenous epidemiology can include a variety of approaches, including: shifting standards, such as age standardization, according to Indigenous populations to give appropriate weight to their experiences; carefully setting recruitment targets and using appropriate recruitment methods to fulfill statistical standards for stratification; acting as a bridge between Indigenous and Western technoscientific perspectives; developing culturally appropriate data collection tools; and developing distinct epidemiological methods based on Indigenous knowledge systems. This paper explores how decolonization and Indigenization of epidemiology has been operationalized in recent Canadian studies and projects, including the First Nations Regional Longitudinal Health Survey and how this decolonization and Indigenization might be augmented with the capacity-building of the future Our Health Counts Applied Indigenous Epidemiology, Health Information, and Health Services and Program Evaluation Training and Mentorship Program in Canada.

Keywords: CBPR, community-based participatory research; CIHR, Canadian Institutes of Health Research; Capacity-building; Community-based participatory research; Decolonized; Epidemiology; FNIGC, First Nations Information Governance Centre; FNIM, First Nations Inuit and Métis; ISC, Indigenous Services of Canada; Indigenous research methods; NEIHR, Network Environments for Indigenous Health Research; OHC-NET, Our Health Counts Applied Indigenous Epidemiology, Health Information and Health Services and Program Evaluation Training and Mentorship Program; PAHO, Pan American Health Organization; Quantitative methods; RHS, The First Nations Regional Longitudinal Health Survey; TEC, Tribal Epidemiology Centers.