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A Deterioration Health Condition Among The Native Americans

A Deterioration Health Condition Among the Native Americans





Native Americans have a rich cultural history. It was characterized by mythologies that attributed almost every aspect of nature to a supernatural power. Native Americans comprised several tribes all of which had their own unique way of doing things although similarities did exist. Common cultural beliefs include; animism, totemism, shamanism, fetishism, and ritualism. One of the key areas of cultural significance where these beliefs held was medicine. The people believed that religion, health, lifestyle and interpersonal relations were intertwined and therefore medicine men intervened any time there was a significant health concern. Even though they used some form of herbal medication, the principle was totally based on superstitious believes and not scientific principles of any kind. People remained healthy however because their diet included mostly vegetables and fruits. With urbanization and intercultural interaction, this trend changed making them vulnerable to modern health concerns. Their state of health has been deteriorating for the last 2 centuries despite several measures to combat this. From this trend, it is clear that: The Native American culture is known for being one of the unhealthiest groups of people in the world.

The declining health state among the native population is attributable to a number of factors both within and without their control. That is to say, changes that occur amongst them and those implied on them by either the government or the environment. The following section discusses these reasons;

Reasons for Health Decline Out of Their Control

Statistics have shown that there is 2.5 times more Native Americans living below the poverty line than other races currently living in the US. This means that a significant number of the former cannot be able to purchase health insurance policies. They live a vulnerable life whereby apart from missing critical diagnosis and counseling on healthy living, they cannot access major medical procedures. Health costs, therefore, mount unbearable burdens to many Native Americans because they struggle to survive to leave alone pay for a health plan. This has put them on the receiving end every time health problems and concerns arise. The highest mortality and morbidity rates for various diseases occur in these populations due to the mere fact that they cannot afford health insurance policies.

Most Native Americans live in the rural areas partly due to their financial status. This creates a distance barrier between them and quality healthcare. The problem arises when constant monitoring by an experienced urban-based doctor is inevitable. Patients have to incur higher costs of constant traveling or stay near the provider. It is common practice for major providers with the right personnel and equipment to base their operations where the target population is concentrated hence isolating the rural areas and the Native Americans.

The Native Americans gave up their land and resources to the newly formed American countries among them the US in return for care and protection from the latter. Unfortunately, this has not always been the case seeing that the federal government has often failed in some areas when it comes to healthcare such as not providing adequate funding to organizations of Native American groups. Even when such funding has been increased, the proportion is always lower compared to inflation levels and therefore there is a general decline in healthcare funding for these populations. Some health problems are hereditary which means that people of the same ancestry face a common risk of infection. Such diseases include; hemochromatosis, huntington’s disease, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, and marfan syndrome.

Reasons for health decline inherent in the Native Americans

The advent of modern life has led to a major departure from traditional ways. Interactions, lifestyle changes, and new governance systems have compelled Native Americans to abandon close to every traditional belief they held. This includes eating habits, which have a huge effect on the health of the people. Traditionally, Native Americans’ diet comprised vegetables and fruits, but today, one can hardly find any grocery store near residential areas especially in rural areas. This means that people abandoned this type of dietary composition settling for fast foods, which contain huge amounts of fats and other food additives with proven adverse health effects. This negligence has put Native American populations at a greater risk of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiac problems. Coupled with inadequate access to healthcare, the health state of the population keeps dwindling.

Even though Native Americans have abandoned much of their traditional dietary practices, they still bear allegiance to them and therefore rekindling a healthy lifestyle would not be difficult. The people have not made efforts to continue their cultural eating habits by setting up grocery outlets for instance. Several organizations such as THRIVE have embarked on a campaign to increase the availability of healthy foods outlets within Native Americans reservations to re-ignite a culture of healthy living. It is, however, worth noting that this move is in response to the people’s neglect of their own cultural framework. In this way, they have contributed to the decline in their health conditions.

The US is known for its rampant unhealthy eating habits. This means that the state of deteriorating health conditions for Native Americans and for any other race sprouts from the national problem of dietary behavior. American citizens eat more junk foods per day than in any other country subjecting the people to high risks of lifestyle diseases such as obesity and heart problems. Despite this knowledge and proven relationship between unhealthy eating and the incidence and prevalence rates of related diseases, little change has taken place to address this problem. Junk food outlets are still big business all over the country in which case the health conditions of virtually every American is bound to deteriorate even further. Competition among eateries has led to less concern to human health leading to the inclusion of unhealthier ingredients just to increase taste and cut on costs.

Possible Solutions

Even with equally unhealthy eating habits among the American population, the effects of resulting illnesses impact most on marginalized citizens among the Native Americans. The federal and state governments should take health services closer to the people by opening branches in the rural areas. This will lower the aggregate healthcare costs, reduce response times and encourage healthy living. With time, the health state of properly served improves exponentially because emergencies are attended to promptly and adequately saving lives and workforce.

The backbone to a healthier population among the Native Americans and the entire population, in general, is healthy eating habits. Efforts should, therefore, be aimed at creating the necessary awareness on the essence of healthy eating in connection to healthy living. This requires the effort of leaders, providers and community groups as well as institutions of learning. A well-informed population is capable of responding positively to healthy eating calls. Such campaigns should not only caution on certain foods but also guide on healthier alternatives and for what specific reasons.

The success of an awareness campaign depends on the availability of proposed alternatives. Providers, governments and community organizations should work together with food businesses and encourage them to stock healthier alternatives on the promise that their customers will definitely settle for them. There needs to be a harmonized plan of action that starts with awareness to availing alternative foods and finally inducing nationwide transition towards healthy lifestyles. This is in the light of the fact that most of the lifestyle diseases are not curable and hence preventing them, offers the best solution to a declining health status for Native Americans and the entire population as well. The change is a multisector process bringing on board consumers, sellers, government agencies and any other concerned party. Conclusion

Native Americans had a culture that not only nourished their spiritual and social life but also enabled them to live a healthy life. Poverty, inadequate funding, unavailability of healthy diets, cultural changes and poor access to health services have led to a consistent deterioration of their health conditions for the last 2 centuries. To address this, there needs to be a comprehensive plan aimed at curbing unhealthy eating habits, availing healthy foods, increasing healthy accessibility and affordability for Native Americans and other disadvantaged groups as well as changing the American view of healthy eating offers the best solution to the deteriorating state of health in the country. It is therefore untrue that Native Americans lead the unhealthiest life in light of eating habits rather; it is an indication of an overall health concern in the country. As the saying goes; prevention is better than cure and therefore addressing unhealthy lifestyles should take precedence over extending treatment services. Bibliography

Carmack, Robert M., Janine L. Gasco, and Gary H. Gossen, eds. The legacy of Mesoamerica: history and culture of a Native American civilization. Routledge, 2016.

Hawkes, Corinna, Trenton G. Smith, Jo Jewell, Jane Wardle, Ross A. Hammond, Sharon Friel, Anne Marie Thow, and Juliana Kain. "Smart food policies for obesity prevention." The Lancet 385, no. 9985 (2015): 2410-2421.

Naughton, Paul, Mary McCarthy, and Sinéad McCarthy. "Acting to self-regulate unhealthy eating habits. An investigation into the effects of habit, hedonic hunger, and self-regulation on sugar consumption from confectionery foods." Food quality and preference 46 (2015): 173-183.

Warne, Donald, and Linda Bane Frizzell. "American Indian health policy: historical trends and contemporary issues." American journal of public health 104, no. S3 (2014): S263-S267.

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I’m a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. My work has been featured in publications like the L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Farther Finance, Teen Vogue, Grammarly, The Startup, Mashable, Insider, Forbes, Writer (formerly Qordoba), MarketWatch, CNBC, and USA Today, among others.