Health Woes of Indigenous People Spur Call to Action

Review articles show disproportionate burden of disease and death; offer possible solutions
By Rick Ansorge
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- The world's 400 million indigenous people are dramatically more likely than non-indigenous people to suffer from chronic disease and premature mortality, and national and international efforts are needed to correct these disparities, according to two related review articles published July 4 in The Lancet.

Researchers from Unity of First People of Australia in Perth, and the University of Alberta in Canada, conducted a systematic review of articles about the health status of indigenous people. In one article, Michael Gracey, M.D., and a colleague discuss the determinants and disease patterns of indigenous health, including poverty, malnutrition, overcrowding, poor hygiene, environmental contamination and prevalent infections, as well as obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and substance abuse. They write that indigenous people have higher rates of disease, injury and mortality, and that their health status could be improved with a few simple methods, including basic hygiene, clean drinking water and a reduction in heavy work.

In a second article, Malcolm King, Ph.D., and colleagues discuss the underlying causes of health disparities, including the 17-year gap in life expectancy between Australia's Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations. They also address issues including indigenous notions of health and identity; mental health and addiction; urbanization and environmental stresses; whole health and healing; and reconciliation.

"For indigenous society healing to occur, there is a need for national and international collaboration with respect to health research -- necessary resources, necessary perspective to identify commonalities in difficulties and solutions. True healing cannot occur until mainstream society also heals -- together," King and colleagues write.

Gracey is a medical adviser to the Unity of First People of Australia, an Aboriginal-run, non-profit organization.

Abstract - Gracey
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Abstract - King
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