The American Indians and other native communities in America still grapple with historical social and economic disadvantages that hamper their access to quality healthcare. Additionally, the native communities have been slow to embrace modern medicine, preferring instead to practice traditionally medicine practices, which are not effective in tackling emerging healthcare challenges. As a result, the community records higher mortality and morbidity rates compared to other American ethnic groups. The community also exercises poor dietary habits, which lead to a higher incidence of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and obesity. This paper highlights the health disparities that lead to lower life expectancy among the American Indian communities.
Access to quality and affordable health care is one of the essential basic needs that every American desires to realize. However, the health status of the minority groups across the country has been disproportionately lower compared to the majority and privileged groups. Among the minority groups, American Indians bear the biggest brunt of unequal healthcare status compared to the rest of the American population due to their historical disadvantages such as higher levels of illiteracy, poverty and a disproportionately lower distribution of hospitals and healthcare practitioners. To reverse these historical disadvantages, policymakers in the health sector should formulate progressive policies aimed at minimizing health healthcare discrimination and disparities in healthcare delivery among American Indians and other minority groups.
The American Indians are a Native American community with an ancestry resembling that of the people from the Republic of India. The American Indians are the indigenous Americans who settled in the continent before the European colonization. Even though the American Indians are the native residents of the American continent, they have faced numerous historical injustices and discrimination from the European groups. Due to the long history of discrimination and injustice, the American Indians lack behind most of the American population regarding the distribution of essential social services such as healthcare. The health status of the American Indians is one of the aspects that reflect the poor social wellbeing the native communities. As a result, the American Indians record higher mortality and morbidity rates, leading to comparatively lower life expectancy compared to other Americans.
The life expectancy of the American Indians is 73.7 years compared to 78.1 years of the other U.S population (Krebs, 2016). Similarly, it is estimated that only 50% of the American Indian population have health insurance cover, which hinders their access to quality health care (Krebs, 2016). Consequently, the health status of the American Indians experience bears the greatest brunt of health. The race and the ethnicity of the American Indian have an influence on their current health status. Empirical studies indicate that healthcare professionals have tendency of showing implicit ethnic and racial bias that has a negative impact on the health care outcomes (Hall, Chapman, Lee, Merino, Thomas, & Payne, 2015). The health care professionals in delivering the services, which gives poor outcomes, hamper the American Indian’s health status due to the historical bias. Indeed, the proportion of the health care professionals from the Indian Americans is insignificant to cater for their needs compared to the privileged groups.
The health disparities among the Indian Americans entail less access to health screening and prevention programs, healthcare coverage and provider, palliative and end-of-life care, and environmental safety programs availability compared to the other group populations (Krebs, 2016). The acute opportunity the Americans Indians accessing these vital health care needs compared to the other ethnic groups has stifled their health status significantly over the years. Additionally, nutritional health is another aspect that affects the health and wellbeing of the American Indians. Retrogressive dietary beliefs have been found to be contributing to dietary conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases among the group compared to other American populations (NHLBI, 2016). The American Indians are increasingly shifting from the healthy traditional foods to the canned and sugary food, which contributes to diabetes and heart diseases. Dietary improvement and changes in dietary beliefs are important among the American Indians to curb the increasing poor health status.
The cultural hindrance to health access among the American Indians is due to cultural misunderstandings the group face in relating with the health care professionals. The interaction between the Indian Americans and the health care professionals has the tendency of facing difficulties due to the sensitive cultural beliefs they hold in sharing some personal information and body exposure. The failure by the health care professionals to understand the cultural beliefs of the Indian American has the tendency of leading to poor health outcome. Similarly, the socioeconomic status of the American Indians has been a major hindrance to the realization of quality health care. The traditional settlement areas where the native Indian Americans lived has continuously been facing contamination of the water resources and food products. This has led to the spread of chronic diseases among the community without access to healthcare organizations and services.
The economic disadvantage of the American Indian is low due to high unemployment rate. The adverse socioeconomic position of the Indian Americans means that the ability to afford health cover is minimal, which hinders access to health. The education status of the Indian Americans also, is a major hindrance to health care services. A significant proportion of the Indian Americans have dropped out of school, which exposes adolescents to unhealthy behaviors such as tobacco smoking and alcoholism. Similarly, the low education attainment among the Indian Americans has hindered the penetration of health education in the community compared to the other U.S populations (Krebs, 2016). Moreover, the sociopolitical challenges contribute inhibit healthcare access among the American Indians. The political class in Congress and Senate influences the disproportionate distribution of economic resources. However, the representation of the Americans by people of their origin has been lacking that has hindered their voice of accessing essential resources and amenities such as the health care (Krebs, 2016).
The barriers the American Indians have been facing in accessing contemporary quality health care has seen them sticking to traditional treatment approaches. This approach involves the use of traditional herbs to cure diseases. However, this approach is ineffective in curing the contemporary complicated ailments. The most effective health promotion prevention approaches to the Indian Americans is the primary care. The primary care entails the general interaction with the physician to identify and treat general infections (Bialek, Beitsch, & Moran, 2017). The primary care is effective in responding to the health problems of the Indian Americans since it is least costly to penetrate unreachable areas and groups in the society.
To create a proactive healthcare plan for the American Indian communities, healthcare policymakers should integrate the community’s cultural and religious beliefs of the community. The care plan that is viewed to go against the rites and religious beliefs has the potential of been rejected due to the feeling that it does not align with their way of life. Similarly, the cultural consensus theory is best suited in supporting a culturally health promotion for the Indian Americans. The cultural consensus theory pools information to determine the cultural beliefs shared by a given group, which is crucial in ensuring the culturally appropriate health answers employed in the health care delivery.
Bialek, R., Beitsch, L. M., & Moran, J. W. (2017). Solving Population Health Problems Through Collaboration. Boston: Taylor & Francis.
Hall, W. J., Chapman, M. V., Lee, K. M., Merino, Y. M., Thomas, T. W., & Payne, K. (2015). Implicit racial/ethnic bias among health care professionals and its influence on health care outcomes: a systematic review. American journal of public health , 105 (12), 60-76.
Krebs, L. U. (2016, November 22). Health Disparities Among American Indians and Alaska Natives: Enormous Hurdles and Opportunities to Advance Health Status. Retrieved January 2019, from https://nimhd.blogs.govdelivery.com/2016/11/22/health-disparities-among-american-indians-and-alaska-natives-enormous-hurdles-and-opportunities-to-advance-health-status/
NHLBI. (2016, November 21). Native American foods, dietary habits take center stage. Retrieved January 2019, from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/news/2016/native-american-foods-dietary-habits-take-center-stage