Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

Native Americans Have Health Disparity

November is Native American History Month, and while walking down the corridors of the UM Hospital this morning, I spied a flier with some disturbing statistics. I had known that Native Americans suffered a large disparity in health, as compared to the rest of America, but check this out:

– American Indians and Alaskan Natives have the 2nd highest infant mortality rate in the nation and the highest rate of SIDS

– The death rate among American Indians ages 15-24 are also higher than those of white persons in the same age group

– American Indians and Alaskan Natives are five times more likely to die of alcohol-related causes than are whites, but they are less likely to die of cancer or heart disease

– The rate of diabetes for this population group is more than twice that for whites. In particular, the Pina Tribe of Arizona has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the world

-The incidence of end-stage renal disease, a complication of diabetes, is higher among American Indians and Alaskan Natives than for both whites and African Americans.


  1. #1 Robert P.
    November 27, 2006

    I read a study, once upon a time, that looked at survival disparity in African-American males. It was colon cancer I believe (this was a long time ago). The thing that struck me was that African-American men getting the same quality of care as Caucasian men had no difference in survival. The difference in survival seemed to be relate directly to quality of care differences due to availability of care and use of care.

    Wonder if the same applies here.

  2. #2 chet snicker
    November 27, 2006

    – American Indians and Alaskan Natives are five times more likely to die of alcohol-related causes than are whites, but they are less likely to die of cancer or heart disease

    are the lower rates for the latter diseases due to lack of survivorship?

  3. #3 joltvolta
    November 27, 2006

    There are quite a few research papers that seem to support those numbers that you’ve read. I’ve bumped into articles that cover overweight/obesity and diabetes specifically, and the health statistics facing American Indians, and Native populations through out North and South America is quite sad. Here are a few links for people who are looking for more material.
    Native Health Database [Searchable Database]
    An Increasing prevalences of overweight and obesity in Northern Plains American Indian children. [Abstract link]
    MedlinePlus:Native-American Health [Various Articles]

  4. #4 Kagehi
    November 27, 2006

    90% of the casino money goes to about 5% of the tribes, with no incentive to help any others. You can’t pay for medical care if you can’t afford it and I know from experience that a lot of indians are more concerned with thumbing their noses “at” the government, while taking what ever hand outs it gives them, than working at making their own money. This isn’t true of all tribes, but is probably true of more than half of them. Then there is the, “don’t trust the white mans medicine”, mentality in some, etc. etc. Tack on the genetic flaw in most indian tribes that make them susceptable to alcohol in a way no one else is, and other factors, and this is a no brainer.

    Too many of them want to live like its 1706, from the perspective of what they “do” and how they “live”, while at the same time buying TVs, cars, etc. They have no understanding of how to live off the land they probably couldn’t live off of anymore anyway, no desire to become part of the rest of society and a, ironically, government sanction to not only never use their lands for a damn thing, but exist in a vacuum of self pitty and self indulgence, in which even the window they just threw a bottle through isn’t replaced by “them”, but by some government official who gets lambasted for the entire time they are their replacing it.

    They want my sympathy, they need to live in the real world. The ones that **do** have my sympathy and a whole hell of a lot more respect from me already. The ones like those that I lived “literally” across the street from for most of my life, can kiss my ass.

    Harsh? Maybe, but the first step in getting people to do something about their condition is not to whine about the condition or blame it on “unfairness”, but to ask, “What are *they* doing to try to change the situation?” As far as I can tell, with a very tiny number of exceptions, this is begging for more money, extra medical coverage and pretending that buying fast food and alcohol “isn’t” part of the problem. Sort of like much of the drugged out or obese morons among the rest of America.

  5. #5 Shelley Batts
    November 27, 2006

    I agree that many of the health issues that plague Native Americans are exacerbated by their socioeconomic “plight.” They certainly do exist in a strange netherworld in America–revered, despised, pitied, admired, segregated, “nannied”…..Not knowing the situation myself, I’ll butt out. The stats caught my eye as significant, the reasons behind them I admit ignorance to.

  6. #6 chet snicker
    November 27, 2006

    there’s a straight up biological issue too though: the indigenous populations of the americas have not been shaped by thousands of years in the “world island” (eurasia + africa) pathogenic cauldron. there is human genetic work which shows that HLA frequencies are changing discernably even today in places like rural southern mexico because of
    “selection.” in other words, some people die earlier….

  7. #7 Leo
    January 18, 2007

    The diabetes in America became an essential problem, struggle with which is priority problem American Diabetes Association WBR LeoP

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