This paper reviews the changes in the health status of Native Americans since the mid-1950s, how the disease pattern differs from non-Natives, and regional differences within the Native American population. Despite some limitations, data from the Indian Health Service indicate that substantial decline in the infant mortality rate and mortality from such infectious diseases as tuberculosis and gastroenteritis has occurred. With the exception of cardiovascular diseases and cancer, the risk of death from most causes are higher among Native Americans than the total US population. Geographic variation in disease rates can be demonstrated, most notable in diabetes. The unique pattern of diseases among Native Americans reflect the interaction of environmental and genetic factors. Genetic susceptibility plays a significant role in some diseases, such as diabetes, while for others, the generally lower socioeconomic status, higher prevalence of certain health risk behaviors and lower utilization of preventive services in the Native American population are important determinants.
Population Research and Policy Review – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 29, 2004
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