What health inequalities do indigenous peoples face?

Indigenous people are those who are indigenous to a region. Throughout history, many of these populations have faced opposition in order to stay on their original land. (Many were forced to move or evicted to a smaller space, and some were removed altogether.) As more people become aware of who Indigenous people are and the social and health challenges they face, society may be able to supports better.

What is an indigenous population?

Indigenous people live all over the world. They are the peoples — and the descendants of the peoples — who lived there before the lands were colonized.

Although many indigenous people are still in or near the regions where their ancestors lived, later settlers greatly reduced the amount of land they once had. Some indigenous populations were completely dispersed when others colonized the areas. In some cases, persons from the local population were removed; some native populations were eliminated entirely along the way genocide.

Indigenous peoples have different languages ​​and cultures, as well as social and political institutions that may differ from mainstream society.

Where do indigenous people live?

There are anywhere from 370 million to 473 million Indigenous people in about 70 countries today. Approximately 70% are in Asia, but they are scattered throughout.

Some melocal population groups include:

  • Lakota in the United States
  • The Maya in Guatemala
  • Aymara in Bolivia
  • Inuit and Aleuts of the Arctic Region
  • The Sami of Northern Europe
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia
  • Maori of New Zealand

What health disparities do indigenous peoples face?

Like other ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples sometimes face discrimination, marginalization and language loss. It may be difficult for them to defend their rights as a group. Before the lands were occupied by others, indigenous groups had collective rights to the land. The United Nations recognizes their collective rights, but they may still face unique challenges.

Some health disparities affecting Indigenous people include:

Bad nutrition. Also known as malnutrition, poor diet affects indigenous peoples for several reasons. Extreme poverty and environmental problems create barriers to obtaining nutritious food. Because local people may not have access to as much arable land as their ancestors, from which to source or grow food, can limit what they eat. in time their diets may include more processed or contaminated foods. Pollution can also affect the quality of their food.

High levels of diabetes. More than 50% of Indigenous adults over the age of 35 have type 2 diabetes. Poor nutrition can be a factor.

Ill health, especially in women. Indigenous women have high rates of maternal and child mortality, cardiovascular disease, malnutrition and infectious diseases including HIV, malaria and tuberculosis. In the last years, more effort is made to respond to the environmental health and violence experienced by Indigenous women.

Lower life expectancy. Indigenous people live as much as 20 years less than non-Indigenous people. They are more likely to have disabilities and a reduced quality of life. In particular, tuberculosis still affects indigenous people differently than non-indigenous people. TB programs may not reach indigenous populations; language differences and remote locations can affect the success of these programs. Heart disease, tumors, and unintentional injuries are leading causes of death for American Indians and Alaska Natives. American Indians and Alaska Natives suffer from kidney, liver, and stomach cancer, to name a few, more often than non-Hispanic whites. They are more likely to be obese than the general population.

Mental health issues. Loss of family members, past trauma, fear of future displacement, food insecurity, ethnic discrimination and other issues can affect the mental health of Indigenous people. Some local groups have depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorder with higher levels than the general population.

Lack of representation in medical research. Indigenous people are largely underrepresented in basic research. The US is making efforts to working with Indians. Problems occurred in relation to conducting research on or involving indigenous peoples. In some cases, tribes participated in research regulated by an institutional review board that lacked tribal representation.

What prevents indigenous people from improving their health?

Indigenous people often have poorer access to high-quality health care.

Many may also refrain from receiving certain types of health care. They may not want to share data, take medication or have non-native people or groups handle their biospecimens. Different indigenous groups may disagree with the principles and practices of modern medicine, including vaccination or genetic testing.

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