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Indigenous Health Beliefs

Indigenous Health Beliefs


Over the years, there are different definitions of health which have evolved concerning societies changing conditions, technological advancements and the stages of diseases (Green, 2017). The redefinitions of health are mostly based on previous definitions. The definitions of health range from the empirical, philosophical, idealistic, technological, psychological, cultural, patient autonomy, and even the social, national policies (Green, 2017). The World Health Organization (WHO) defined health as ‘a state of complete mental, social, and physical well-being which is not merely the absence of infirmity or disease’ since 1946 (Green, 2017). Just like the WHO, indigenous communities understand health as having harmony amongst individuals, universe, and communities. In all parts of the world, health includes both the traditional healing systems and western biomedical care. Australian Government (2013) and NACCHO (2016) noted that the Aboriginal health is the cultural, social, and emotional well-being of the whole community where each gets to the full potential thus giving the total-wellbeing of the community. Just like the aborigines, the native Americans believe that health is a combination of all elements of life which are mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional (MEMBERS et al., 2014). As a result, illness in individual results from the inability to balance between the external and internal bodies.

Native Americans’ Health, Disease Prevention, and Treatment

The Native Americans are one of the original peoples of North, Central, and South America who still maintain their cultural origin. Though they are diverse and geographically dispersed, these people have a commonality in economic disadvantage. The Native Americans have diseases patterns that are associated with adverse consequences in poverty, culture, inadequate education, employment, and limited health services access. Compared to other Americans these groups have unhealthy lifestyles and therefore a higher mortality due to lifestyle diseases such as tuberculosis, alcoholism, homicide, injuries, among other substance users (Moore et al., 2015).

The health of the Native Americans can be described in the following categories. The first type is the structural or community factors which directs that the health issues of an individual are dealt with using those of the whole community. Though the community depends on the modern health research, they mostly use their indigenous knowledge when it comes to health (Torre et al., 2016). Additionally, these people are geographically isolated from the other communities, and that is why they have passed knowledge about sustainability from one generation to the next. The cultural factors show that the Native Americans take health as a holistic issue and therefore will use their traditional knowledge before visiting any modern healthcare system (Grant, 2016). As a result, chronic diseases such as cancer, HIV, and other long-term conditions end up affecting them. These people rarely go for screening and thus will never know whether or not they have the chronic diseases (Moore et al., 2015). Surprisingly, women are more traditional and will not give in to visiting the healthcare facilities for screening such as the Pap test putting them at higher risks of cervical cancer. On the other hand, traditional practices such as drug abuse, alcoholism, dancing put these people at more risks of unhealthy lifestyles.

On the contrary, there are individual mortality and morbidity factors that constrain the health of the population. These factors include the loss of heritage and land. Such factors have made the Native Americans to adopt unhealthy lifestyles that can be the source of disease progression and harmful outcomes (Torre et al., 2016). Specifically, according to the National Cancer Institute, (NCI), the Native American population has the lowest 5-year survival rate despite being the community within America with the most probability of contacting the disease (Department of Health and Human Services, 2016). The exposure is attributed to many factors such as geographic isolation, late detection stage, poverty, lack of healthcare access, and treatment underutilization. Similarly, the National Institute of alcoholism and alcohol abuse (NIAAA) stated that their epidemiological data show that the Native Americans are likely to start drinking early, and they are heavy drinkers (Department of Health and Human Services, 2016). The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shows that majority of the population is addicted to drugs which put them to riskier behavior that cause drug-related difficulties such as infection with the HIV, child abuse, suicide, among other risky behaviors. On the other hand, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) showed that the Native Americans from the highest population with the oral diseases issues. These problems include oral cancer, untreated decay, dental caries among other oral problems (Department of Health and Human Services, 2016).

Aborigines Health, Disease Prevention and Treatment

Browne, Adams, & Atkinson (2016), noted that before colonization the aborigines the social, cultural, and physical well-being. However, due to issues such as food insecurity, and other nutrition, these people are ranked first when it comes to chronic diseases. Neumayer, H. (2013) noted that the health outcomes of the aborigines are not only weak but of low standards when compared with others aboriginals in other countries such as New Zealand and Canada. Further, the author argues that the aboriginals have a twice lower life expectancy compared to the non-indigenous people a fact that has not changed since 2002. The Australian aboriginals have a thrice possibility of going to the hospital due to self-harm compared to the other people. Moreover, these people are associated with health issues such as obesity, poor maternal, diabetes, infectious diseases, heart diseases and even higher levels of smoking. Despite these facts, some laws and regulations ensure all Australians get equitable healthcare. One of these statutes is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) which is Article 25.1 states that all individuals have right to adequate health (Health Info Net, 2016). In short, health is recognized as fundamental right internationally.

Parker & Milroy (2014) stated that the aborigines had been part of the Australian community for a very long time approximately 45,000 to 50,000 years. Further ethnographic evidence shows that the aborigines that survived infancy were incredibly fit and also disease-fit. Additionally, these people are known for eating nutritious and balanced diets of vegetables and proteins, minerals, and vitamins that contain low fat, salts, and sugars. As a result, the aborigines maintained a healthy lifestyle. When it came to mental health, these people had reinforcing factors such collective sense, intimate connection to the life aspects, culture, country, community and even spirituality. Nevertheless, due to the colonial history and other socioeconomic inequities, the aborigines are unable to maintain the healthy lifestyle. Furthermore, these people live in the remote areas which are characterized by poor infrastructure and knowledge to eat and prepare the right food. Another critical factor is the fact that these aborigines have low income; on average, the majority of the Aboriginal gross salary in a week is less than $250 (Browne, Adams, & Atkinson, 2016).

Further, Browne, Adams, & Atkinson (2016) noted that nearly 80% gap in the mortality rates of the indigenous aborigines is treatable chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, kidney failure, and cardiovascular diseases among others. Evidently, these diseases are linked to nutrition, and therefore eating the right food can reduce them completely. Additionally, the aboriginals are associated with dietary factors and obesity which contribute to the high levels of Australia diseases. In short, the aboriginals in Australia health issues are mostly connected to diet and thus can be completely altered if the country feeds its people with the right food.

Moreover, Nicholson et al. (2015) observed that smoking constraints native of Australia health. Accordingly, 94% of the daily Aboriginal smokers did not know that the smoking caused lung cancer, 82% low birth weight, and 68% diabetes. Additionally, 90% did not know that smoking affects nonsmokers, 95% children, and 91% causes asthma. In short, these people are completely unaware of the health hazards that are caused by cigarette intake.

Comparison between Native Americans and Aborigines

Evidently, these countries have a common background that is they were all British colonies. However, there are fundamental differences in the ways that they recognize and handle their indigenous populations (Grant, 2016). Both countries that are the use and the Australia have used inclusive approach when it comes to registration of the population statistics and the death for more than forty years now. In both the USA and Australia, there is a need for identification of the dead indigenous in the national statistics. Additionally, both of these countries were driven to annihilation by the invaders (Moore et al., 2015). All these populations watched as their children were taken to boarding schools thus causing acculturation. Just like the Native Americans, the Aborigines make up a small percentage of the total population. Furthermore, both these communities are the poorest, most disadvantaged and the unhealthiest. The governments of Australia and America have spent a substantial amount of money in pursuit of housing, community programs, hospitals, and educational reforms amongst other activities on these populations (Moore et al., 2015). The activities seek to ensure that these residents improve their living conditions but despite all these communities remain abysmal.

Both of these communities have issues with the child abuse and the alcohol among other substances abuse. Interestingly, these issues with alcoholism and child abuse among the indigenous populations are linked to the problems that they suffered when they were taken to the national boarding schools. All these people learned the behaviors from the colonizers, and they have carried on with them despite the changes in generations (Grant, 2016). Further, Hollins (2015) noted that the racism and other social exclusion areas are the reason behind most of the mental illness among the indigenous populations. Notably, racism or any other social mistreatment is associated with psychological distress which leads to behaviors such as alcohol abuse. The majority of the people engage in the unhealthy lifestyle to cover what they are feeling.

In both countries, there has been the introduction of radical rules that seek to protect the indigenous populations from child abuse and use of hardcore drugs. However, these rules have led to the disruption of the Native Americans and Aborigines since they are enforced without consultation. In both countries, these communities fight for recognition, and it has taken some deaths to justify their mission. Just like during the colonization, the indigenous communities have remained second best or even worse due to the pre-accepted religious beliefs on races (Jamieson et al., 2013). Therefore, even after the end of colonization, these original races in both countries continue to struggle with every aspect of their lives including health.

Critique of a Health Program

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Close the Gap Health Plan

The Close the Gap campaign started in April 2007 by the Australian human right bodies, indigenous, non-indigenous, and the non-governmental organization (Neumayer, 2013). Further Neumayer (2013), argued that the ideology emerged from the Social Report Justice 2005 that required that the health is made a right for everybody. The campaign sought to increase the life expectancy and the health of the aborigines to the same levels as those the non-aboriginals by 2031. Further, Browne, Adams, & Atkinson (2016) noted that the campaign about health equity began as early as 2006 and mostly focused on bridging the gap of life expectancy. The campaign concentrated on the issues that substantially created the difference between the indigenous and non-indigenous populations.

Amongst the issues that were found relevant in improving the health problems for the aborigines was achieving the right food nutrition target. In this case, the Council of Australian Government (COAG) promised to let the aborigines to buy a standard health food basket at a cost that was less than 25% of their incomes (Phillips et al., 2014). Australian Government (2013) noted that the Close the Gap campaign had six specific targets to mitigate the issues that disadvantaged the aboriginals in Australia. The objectives were; halve the gap of the indigenous student’s education by 2018, to close the life expectancy gap, halve the mortality rates of the aboriginal kids below five years within a decade, half the unemployment levels between the indigenous and other populations, and the people aged 20-24 in Year 12 attainments rates.

Evidently, the issues of health inequality are still rampant among the indigenous and non-indigenous populations in the Australia. The government needs to undertake extra programs and interventions that are bound to ensure that the aborigines achieve adequate health (Browne, Adams, & Atkinson, 2016). Some of the recommendations to create equality amongst the Australian populations are;

  • The government should incorporate the consistent education for all families to complement the indigenous health knowledge to improve the health situation.

  • Additionally, the government should give the native equal levels of employment of various ages to improve the income standards of these people. Since education to gain the necessary is a problem, the government should create training programs for the aboriginal populations.

  • The government should also create settings-based interventions to help the aboriginals improve the health status. Amongst the interventions should be childhood services and other sports clubs.


Evidently, the definition of health goes beyond the absence of illness. Just like the WHO, the aborigines and Native Americans believe that health is more of physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and cultural well-being. The report shows that the indigenous communities suffer similar health issues. Most of the health problems are associated with colonization and racism. As a result of social mistreatment, these indigenous communities have led to risky behavior such as drug abuse and neglect of visiting the modern health systems thus constraining their health even more. Additionally, racism has put these communities in stressful situations such as low income which restrict their access to health and standard diets. Both governments have undertaken different measures to ensure that they level the gaps between the indigenous and the other populations. Unfortunately, the Australian Close the Gap has been unsuccessful therefore the need to undertake more interventions such as the creation of equal job opportunities.


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