New white paper highlights Sámi perspectives in public health work

The Government believes that public health policy has paid too little attention to factors that affect public health and living conditions in the Sámi population. This will change with the white paper that was passed in the Council of State on Friday.

‘I am proud and pleased that the Government is today able to present a white paper on public health and living conditions in the Sámi population. This report provides the necessary space for Sámi perspectives in public health policy,’ says Minister of Health and Care Services Ingvild Kjerkol.

‘Together, we must both understand the challenges experienced by the Sámi population and be aware of the resources and opportunities in the Sámi population that are part of the solutions. This white paper facilitates this,’ says Kjerkol.

Meeting challenges

Several public health challenges affect the Sámi population. Women and men with a Sámi background report more mental health problems than the general population, and the Sámi experience more harassment and discrimination.

Persons with a Sámi background are also more likely to be victims of emotional, physical and/or sexual violence than the general population.

‘Although there are generally only minor differences in the health status of persons with a Sámi background compared with the rest of the population, we cannot live with such differences. We will do something about this,’ says Kjerkol.

Increased influence

The Government presents several measures of importance to the Sámi population in the Sámi Public Health Report.

The Government will ensure increased influence, for example by ensuring that one member of the Public Health Policy Council has a Sámi background.

‘This will emphasise the Sámi perspective in the Council's discussions. We also want to ensure that the voices of Sámi children and young people are increasingly heard, including through cooperation with the Sámi Parliament and the Sámi Parliament's Children's Forum,’ says Kjerkol.

More initiatives

Specific measures are also being taken to target individual residents with a Sámi background.

‘We want to ensure that the Sámi population receives health information that is adapted to their situation, and that various services gain more knowledge about the individual's needs,’ says Kjerkol.

This means, among other things, that the Directorate of Health's professional guidelines and other information must be translated into Sámi, and that the Directorate's advice must also be adapted to the needs of the Sámi population.

‘Children and young people with a Sámi background have a special focus in the report. We will ensure that Sámi youth have an information page about counselling services linked to (in Norwegian) , and we will assess the need for a helpline for children and young people with a Sámi language background who have been victims of violence,’ says Kjerkol.

Local meeting places

The report also emphasises that municipalities have a key role to play in the work on living conditions and health.

‘Everyone needs good meeting places to experience a sense of community and belonging. The municipalities must continue to work with their residents to create local social meeting places for people with a Sámi background, especially in municipalities where the Sámi are in the minority. This will prevent marginalisation and loneliness,’ says Kjerkol.

Historical trauma and stress

The Sámi Public Health Report was discussed in the Council of State on the same day as the consultation deadline for the report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (PDF,, in Norwegian).

The report has served as an important knowledge base for the new white paper.

‘The policy of Norwegianisation has caused historical trauma and stress for many in the Sámi population. Norwegianisation can also occur when national public health policy does not take the uniqueness of Sámi culture and way of life into account. In the field of public health policy, we want to change that with this report,’ says Kjerkol.

Summary of white paper on public health and living conditions in the Sámi population

The white paper on public health and living conditions in the Sámi population builds on the white paper on Public Health published in 2023 (in Norwegian). Norway's general public health policy also applies to the Sámi population. Other important starting points for this white paper were the white paper Escalation Plan for Mental Health (in Norwegian) published last year and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report (, PDF, 48,3 MB, in Norwegian).

There is limited knowledge about public health and living conditions in the Sámi population. However, a knowledge synthesis from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the Centre for Sámi Health Research ( at UiT The Arctic University of Norway shows that there are only small differences in health between the Sámi and the rest of the population, especially compared with indigenous peoples in other parts of the world. However, the Sámi are slightly more likely to report poor mental health than non-Sámi. They are also more likely to report having been victims of violence either in childhood or adulthood, and to be discriminated against or harassed because of their Sámi background. An input process has been carried out for the work on the report, where the mental health of the Sámi population was emphasised in the feedback.

The report provides a broad description of public health challenges from a cross-sectoral perspective, and also emphasises health-promoting resources in Sámi culture and community life. It is based on an acknowledgment that public health and living conditions policy has so far emphasised Sámi perspectives to a limited extent, and identifies areas where this will be bolstered. The main approach is to integrate Sámi perspectives into ordinary work. At the same time, Sámi language and culture must be protected and stimulated. The municipalities will play a key role in these efforts.

The white paper contains a strategy with six priority areas to promote good living conditions and good health and quality of life for the Sámi population. Chapters 3 to 8 discuss the six priority areas as follows:

  1. promoting good living conditions in the Sámi population
  2. including Sámi perspectives in public health policy
  3. public health work to promote good mental health and quality of life
  4. promoting healthy living habits and a health-promoting environment
  5. strengthening knowledge about public health and living conditions in the Sámi population
  6. promoting cross-border cooperation on public health in the Sámi population