Aboriginals, in particular children, are at a huge a disadvantage when it comes to health, according to a new study.

The study, released today by the Canadian Medical Association, finds poverty is the greatest barrier to good health.

Aboriginal Canadians generally have a shorter life expectancy, more health problems and more stress, the study says.

It also finds Aboriginal health falls well below the average health of the rest of the population.

CMA President Dr. Anna Reid describes the situation as shameful.

“It is a national disgrace and I think we have known that Aboriginal health outcomes and living conditions are abysmal,” she says. “We have known that for a good many years and there has never been a real concerted effort to address this.”

Dr. Reid is an emergency room doctor in Yellowknife and has seen first hand Aboriginal people in both desperate need and situations.

She says addressing the problem now will save lives and money in the future.

“This is what is predicted,” she says. “We know that the general health agency of Canada put out a report last year that 20 per cent of our health care spending is actually attributable to the socio-economic determinants.”

The report was prepared after a national dialogue involving town hall meetings and on line consultations and has been forwarded to governments for action.

It contains 12 recommendations aimed at improving the health of Canada’s poor.

Dr. Reid says she hopes the report will also stimulate Canadians to put pressure on the federal government to take concrete action.