While American Indians and Alaskan Natives have been the first inhabitants of the land that is now occupied by the United States of America, today the population faces significant health care disparities. American Indians and Alaskan Natives had to withstand the immense pressure from the majority populations that have compromised their culture, lifeways, as well as health and wellness. Because Native populations have higher poverty rates and thus struggle with inadequate housing, unemployment, low levels of education, their health status is also on a low level.
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Current Health Status
The current status of health as to the identified minority group can be represented through several points of statistics. As mentioned in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017) report, the “life expectancy of American Indians and Alaskan Natives is 4.4 years less” compared to all other US nationalities (p. 4). The population has the second highest mortality rate among infants as well as has the highest rates of diabetes mellitus occurrence compared to the rest of the country’s population (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017).
It should also be mentioned that American Indians and Alaskan Natives have a greater occurrence of infectious disease-related deaths if compare these statistics to the health outcomes of non-Hispanic whites.
The remoteness and isolation, as well as low rates of sanitation, contribute to the persistence of the problem. When it comes to health issues that affect the youth, American Indian and Alaskan Native teenagers are more likely to engage in commercial cigarette use compared to other ethnicities (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). Overall, the health statistics on the group show that Native Americans and Alaskan Natives struggle with a variety of wellness challenges and disparities due to the lack of resources for addressing them.
Due to the scarce availability of resources that can help improve the health outcomes of the population, American Indians and Alaskan Natives have a unique approach to health promotion. Traditional beliefs and practices play a significant role in promoting health. Some of them include the belief in spirits’ healing properties, the holistic approach to life, the use of communal ceremonies, as well as the respect to elders (or shamans) as guides and advisors in achieving wellness.
Initiatives targeted at improving the health status of American Indians and Alaskan Natives is associated with enhancing preventative measures at three levels: national, regional, and local. Such initiatives are expected to cover the primary concerns of the population such as obesity, improper nutrition, diabetes, cessation of tobacco, as well as the lack of physical activity and exercise.
As identified previously, the health status of American Indians and Alaskan Natives is currently on a low level due to the variety of health disparities. Several examples of such disparities will be mentioned further. For example, compared to the national average of 13.8%, Alaska Native and American Indian underage youth had a 14.3% rate of binge drinking (SAMHSA, 2018). Also, both populations had the highest rates of drug-related deaths (17.1%) compared to the national average. Apart from physical health disparities, Alaskan Natives and American Indians also suffer from mental health challenges (SAMHSA, 2018).
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For example, the occurrence of suicides among adolescents and young adults of the populations is 1.5 times higher (19.5 per 100,000 people) compared to the national average (12.2 per 100,000 people) of the age group (between 15 and 34 years) (SAMHSA, 2018). Thus, appropriate measures are needed to address the health disparities and help the population overcome the identified challenges.
Prevention of Health Challenges
Since the lack of resources has been identified as the primary obstacle to the improvement of the population’s health, a health promotion strategy should be focused on this problem. Three levels of health promotion prevention can be applied to helping Native Americans and Alaskan Natives deal with adverse health issues. At the stage of primary prevention, there should be solid governmental efforts to pass legislation to provide minority communities with financial support and insurance to expand their opportunities in seeking high-quality care. Also, the primary level should include the establishment of healthcare facilities in remote areas to provide communities with better health access.
At the secondary prevention level, local governments should be engaged in regular screenings for detecting health issues at earliest stages (“Primary, secondary and tertiary prevention,” 2015). Namely, local health providers should pay attention to diabetes occurrence, substance abuse among adolescents and young adults, obesity, and mental health issues such as depression or suicidality.
At the tertiary level of prevention, health problems of Alaskan Natives and Native Americans should be addressed through rehabilitation efforts targeted at dealing with chronic conditions. For instance, wellness programs to encourage the population to engage in physical activity can be implemented. Also, dietary rehabilitation efforts for battling obesity and diabetes should take place. Overall, the resource-oriented approach for health promotion is a suitable solution for the identified population because it lacks financial support and does not have wellness programs that target main health disparities. It is also important to mention that the federal government should be placed at the forefront of health promotion efforts to give local governments more power and resources for addressing health challenges of American Indians and Alaskan Natives.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). CDC and Indian country working together.
SAMHSA. (2018). Racial and ethnic minority populations. Web.