The United States has always been known for the diverse population. The representatives of racial and ethnic minorities constitute more than one-third of American people, and this figure is increasing. American Indians and Alaska Natives make one of the less numerous ethnic groups in the US. They amount to 5.2 million, which is about 2% of the whole population (“Profile,” 2017, para.1). Due to certain issues like geographic isolation, genetics, cultural barriers, or the availability of treatment, they observe problems with health care, which is the topic of this discussion.
The Current Health Status of American Indians and Alaska Natives
To achieve an efficient health promotion, it is useful to have a brief overview of the current health status of American Indians and Alaska Natives. One of the factors influencing their health condition is the place of living. About 60% of this minority group reside in the urban areas, whereas 22% live on reservations (“Profile,” 2017, para.2). At present, there are 567 tribes recognized on the federal level (“Profile,” 2017, para. 3). Indian Health Service, a governmental agency, assists those tribes in educational and health issues.
As for the illnesses that cause most deaths among American Indians and Alaska Natives, these are “heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries (accidents), diabetes, and stroke” (“Profile,” 2017, para.10). Besides, this ethnic group observes high risks of “mental health and suicide, obesity, substance abuse, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), teenage pregnancy, liver disease, and hepatitis” (“Profile,” 2017, para.10).
Health promotion by American Indians and Alaska Natives
A lot is to be done concerning health promotion among American Indians and Alaska Natives. Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP) initiative of Indian Health Service is focused on strengthening the attempts to improve the health condition of the mentioned ethnic group on different levels, national and global. The HPDP programs are aimed at the correction of lifestyles, support of physical activity, encouragement of better nutrition, stimulation of reducing smoking and drinking alcohol, in particular among the young people.
Health Disparities for American Indians and Alaska Natives
Despite the activities of the Indian Health Service which administers health care for American Indians and Alaska Natives, they observe some discrepancies compared to the other population. This ethnic group has always had lower life expectancy and worse health condition in general. It is partially due to the poor education, extreme need, cultural dissimilarity, and low ratio of health service delivery. For example, the life expectancy of American Indians and Alaska Natives is 73.7 years compared to 78.1 of the average US citizen, which is 4.4 years less (“Disparities,” 2016, para.4).
If we examine in contrast the situation with the mortality rates because of certain diseases, the results may be frightening. Thus, the death rate of American Indians and Alaska Natives because of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis is 4.7 times higher than that of all US races (43.1 to 9.1 cases per 100 000 population). The other dangerous diseases are diabetes mellitus (with mortality rate 2.8 times higher), diseases of the heart (1.2 times), and neurotic syndrome (1.5). The rates of death because of assault (homicide) and suicide are also hazardous (1.9 and 1.6 times higher correspondently) (“Disparities,” 2016).
Health Promotion Approach
Prevention is the direct way to improve health conditions. The practical approach to the health promotion among American Indians and Alaska Natives should consist of three levels. Then primary level presupposes to prevent the disease before it happened which may be reached through health education, i.e. informing the target audience about the significant health issues and the availability of medical institutions. This level also includes the promotion of healthy lifestyle and immunization (“What researchers mean,” 2015, para.3).
The secondary prevention begins after the disease has been identified. In fact, it comprises both, the prevention of possible complications and an attempt to avoid the spread of the disease. The crucial components of this level are the early diagnosing, successful cure and quick recovery. To implement this prevention level with American Indians and Alaska Natives the free of charge investigations may be organized, like blood tests or X-ray, delivered in the local clinics or on the territory of reservations.
The tertiary prevention deals with the rehabilitation of the people who have observed the disease. It is supposed to reduce the influence of the disease, especially a chronic one. The examples of this level can be stroke rehabilitation programs or programs that teach how to handle chronic illness like arthritis or diabetes (“What researchers mean,” 2015, para.6).
In general, the poor health of American Indians and Alaska Natives is not only a medical problem. It also has social and economic roots. Being oppressed for years and thrown away from their lands on reservations, American Indians and Alaska Natives got used to surviving by themselves. Most of them are unemployed due to the fact of poor education. Global poverty leads to health problems, and the lack of education does not let them realize how bad the situation is. Thus, the attempts of the Government to improve the health condition of this minority group should be complex, considering social, economic, political and cultural barriers.
(2016). Indian Health Service. Web.
(2017). U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Web.
What researchers mean by… (2015). Institute for Work and Health. Web.