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Speaking at a workshop last month for employees of Indian Health Services, Dr. Matthews said that Indians in Canada face the highest rate of population growth and that Saskatchewan Indians have the highest rate of population increase of any group in the country.
At the present rate the Saskatchewan Indian population will double every 16 years, he said. This compares to a rate for the rest of the province's population, which doubles only every 107 years.
"It is obvious from these figures that in terms of programs those for Indian people will have to escalate at a pretty high rate," Dr. Matthews said.
Statistics also show that among Indian people in the province, over half are under the age of 15 years as compared to only 31 per cent or the rest of the province.
These figures relate directly to the amount of responsibility and load carried by Indian parents in that every potential wage earner has that many people dependent on him, Dr. Matthews said.
In comparison to the rest of the province, there is only one potential wage earner for every 110 Indian people as opposed to one potential wage earner for every 55 people in the rest of the province.
In other words, said Dr. Matthews, the figures show that an Indians income has to support twice as many people as any other wage earner in the province.
Medical personnel will have to think of stepping outside the traditional medical role in order to deal with the problems of such situations, he said. It is being increasingly recognized that medical problems cannot be disassociated from social and economic problems and that it is necessary to deal with the total situation.
"We have to get away from the traditional attitude among medical people that we'll just let social problems solve themselves or else get someone else to fix them," Dr. Matthews said.