About Northern FIRE

Northern FIRE (Feminist Institute for Research and Evaluation) aims to:
  • achieve greater equality for women living in northern, rural, and remote communities,
  • raise awareness about these women's experiences with the health care system,
  • create a women-centred approach to examine determinants of health,
  • facilitate meaningful research that addresses northern women's needs,
  • connect researchers who are interested in northern women's health issues together,
  • engage and mentor students and community-based researchers,
  • disseminate information, resources and knowledge, and
  • collaborate with community agencies and women from the north on relevant research projects.

     The Canadian health sector has often overlooked the unique needs of northern communities, forcing residents of the north to take additional steps and/or incur additional costs to receive the same level of health care as those who live in southern Canada (Young, Ng, & Chatwood, 2015). Multiple studies and reports by researchers and government agencies demonstrate that Canadians living in rural and remote communities of northern Canada merit additional attention in regards to their health needs due to their unique geography, history, and population (e.g., the large proportion of Aboriginal peoples). Women from these communities face higher rates of violence in addition to having less access to health resources, services, and treatments. These poor health indicators put northern women in a vulnerable position, especially when factors such as geography, climate, and issues related to age, culture, race, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status are considered.  

     From illness, to disease, to conditions caused by the environment or social interaction, further examination of health care continuously proves to be an asset in understanding an individual’s health. To examine the relationship between health status and other factors, such as gender, allows for an intrinsic understanding. Therefore, it is valuable to recognize the compounding influences that gender and geography can have on an individual’s wellbeing, as this allows for a greater understanding of northern women’s experiences and their struggles with all areas of health-related issues. 

     Due to the complexity of examining northern women’s health, Northern FIRE is passionate about gaining a deeper understanding of northern women’s health experiences, and working with community agencies and individual women to improve the health care system in the north.


Young, K., Ng, C., & Chatwood, S. (2015). Assessing health care in Canada’s North: what can we learn from national and regional surveys? International Journal of Circumpolar Health 74, 1-14.

Canadian Social Determinants of Health

The Public Health Agency of Canada (2013) has identified 12 key determinants of health. While there are many other factors that influence health, the 12 key ones that have been identified in Canada are:

1. Income and Social Status: The key factor that determines health status. Likewise, social status affects health by determining the degree of control people have over life circumstances and, hence, their capacity to take action.

2. Social Support Networks: Support from families, friends and communities is important in helping people deal with difficult situations and maintaining a sense of mastery over life circumstances.

3. Education and Literacy: Meaningful and relevant education equips people with knowledge and skills for daily living, enables them to participate in their community, and increases opportunities for employment. 

4. Employment and Working Conditions: Meaningful, non-precarious employment, economic stability, and a healthy work environment are associated with good health.

5. Social Environment: The health of individuals and communities as a whole is strongly influenced by the values and norms supported by their geographical area.

6. Physical Environment: Factors such as air and water quality, the type of housing and the safety of our communities have a major impact on health.

7. Personal Health Practices and Coping Skills: Personal health practices are key in preventing diseases and promoting self-care. Just as important, are peoples' coping skills. Effective coping skills enable people to be self-reliant, solve problems and make choices that enhance health.

8. Healthy Child Development: Positive prenatal and early childhood experiences have a significant effect on subsequent health.

9. Biology and Genetic Endowment: Recent research in the biological sciences has shed new light on "physiological make-up" as an important health determinant.

10. Health Services: There is a relationship between the availability of preventive and primary care services and improved health (e.g., well baby and immunization clinics, education programs about healthy choices).

11. Gender: Male bodied and female bodied people face different health challenges at different ages. In addition, literature has demonstrated that gendered norms impact individual health as well as the health system's practices, policies and priorities. 

12. Culture: Dominant cultural values both directly and indirectly contribute to issues of discrimination, marginalization, stigmatization and devaluation of other cultures. The can result in additional barriers to culturally appropriate health care and services.


The Public Health Agency of Canada (2013). Underlying Premises and Evidence Table. Retrieved from: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ph-sp/determinants-eng.php#unhealthy