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Over the years, there are different definitions of health which have evolved from society-changing conditions, technological advancements and the changes in stages of diseases (Green, 2017). The redefinitions of health are mostly based on previous definitions. The definitions of health range from the empirical, philosophical, technological, psychological, cultural, and even the social, national policies (Green, 2017). The World Health Organization [WHO] (2017), defined health as ‘a state of complete mental, social, and physical well-being which is not merely the absence of infirmity or diseases’ since 1948. In the same way, indigenous communities understand health as having ‘harmony amongst individuals, the universe, and communities’ (WHO, 2007). In all parts of the world, health includes both the traditional healing systems and western biomedical care. Australian Government (2013) and The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation [NACCHO] (2016) noted that the Aboriginal health is the cultural, social, and emotional well-being of the entire community, in which each aspect reaches themaximum potential thus giving the total-wellbeing of the community. Similar to the aborigines, the native Americans believe that health is a combination of different aspects of life,including mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional aspects (Go et al., 2014). As a result, illness in individuals 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 the North, Central, and South America who still maintain their cultural origin (Torre, 2016). 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 ofpoverty, culture, inadequate education, employment, and limited accessibility to health services (Moore et al. 2015). 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 (Go et al., 2014).
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 (Torre et al., 2016). Though the community depends on the modern health researches, they mostly use their indigenous knowledge when it comes to health. Additionally, these people are geographically isolated from the other communities, and that is why they have passed their knowledge about sustainability from one generation to the next (Grant, 2016). 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. As a result, chronic diseases such as cancer, HIV, and other long-term conditions end up affecting them (Go et al., 2014). These people rarely go for screening and thus will never know whether or not they have the chronic diseases. 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(Moore et al., 2015). On the other hand, traditional practices such as drug abuse, alcoholism, dancing put these people at more risks of unhealthy lifestyles (Grant, 2016).
On the contrary, there are individual mortality and morbidity factors that constrain the health of the population (Torre et al., 2016). These factors include the loss of heritage and land. Such factors have made the Native Americans to adopt unhealthy lifestyles that can be a source of disease progression and harmful outcomes. Specifically, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) (2017), 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.The exposure is attributed to many factors such as geographic isolation, late detection stage, poverty, lack of healthcare access, and treatment underutilisation. Similarly, the National Institute of alcoholism and alcohol abuse (NIAAA) stated that their epidemiological data shows that the Native Americans are more likely to start drinking early, and they are heavy drinkers (Department of Health and Human Services, 2017). The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shows that majority of the population is addicted to drugs,putting them to riskier behavior that cause drug-related difficulties such as infection with the HIV infection, child abuse, suicide, among other risky behaviors(Department of Health and Human Services, 2017).On the other hand, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) showed that the Native Americans is one of the populations with the most oral diseases and issues (Jamieson et al., 2013). These problems include oral cancer, untreated decay, dental caries among other oral problems.
Aborigines Health, Disease Prevention and Treatment
Browne, Adams, & Atkinson (2016), noted that before colonization, the aborigines had a relatively better standing as regards the social, cultural, and physical well-being. However, due to issues such as food insecurity, and other nutritional problems, these people are ranked first when it comes to chronic diseases. Neumayer (2013), claimed 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. Furthermore, the author argued that the aboriginals have a twice lower life expectancy compared to the non-indigenous people, which is 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 (Australian Government,2013). Moreover, these people are associated with health issues such as obesity, poor maternal health, diabetes, infectious diseases, heart diseases and even higher levels of smoking. Despite these facts, some laws and regulations ensure all Australians get equitable healthcare (Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet, 2017). One of these statutes is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which is Article 25.1, stating that all individuals have the rights to adequate health. In short, health is recognized as a fundamental right internationally.
The aborigines had been part of the Australian community for a very long time approximately 45,000 to 50,000 years (Parker & Milroy, 2014). Further ethnographic evidence shows that the aborigines that survived infancy were incredibly fit and also disease-fit (Phillips et al., 2014). 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 (Parker & Milroy, 2014). As a result, the aborigines maintained a healthy lifestyle. When it came to mental health, these people had reinforcing factors such collective sense and intimate connection to their life aspects, culture, country, community and even spirituality. Nevertheless, due to the colonial history and other socioeconomic inequities, the aborigines are unable to maintain a healthy lifestyle (Brown et al., 2016).Furthermore, these people live in the remote areas which are characterised by poor infrastructure and unhealthy eating habits (Browne et al., 2016). 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.
Moreover, it is noted that nearly 80% of deaths in the indigenous communities are treatable chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, kidney failure, and cardiovascular diseases, etc. (Browne, Adams & Atkinson, 2016). Evidently, treatable chronic diseases are linked to nutrition, and therefore eating the right food can reduce the risk of developing these diseases. Additionally, the aboriginals are associated with dietary factors and obesity which contribute to the high prevalence of Australia diseases (Australian Indigenous HealthInfo Net, 2017). In short, the health issues of aboriginals in Australia are mostly connected to diet and thus can be completely altered if the country provides its people with the right food.
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 causes lung cancer, decreased birth weight, and diabetes. Additionally,
90% did not know that smoking affects nonsmokers, while 91% causes asthma. In
short, these people lack the awareness of the health hazards that are caused by
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 recognise and handle their indigenous populations (Grant, 2016). The USA 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(Moore et al., 2015). In both the USA and Australia, there is a need for identifying the mortality rate of the indigenous population. Additionally, both of these countries were driven to annihilation by the invaders (Grant, 2016). 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 of these communities are the poorest, most disadvantaged and the unhealthiest(Jamieson, 2013). The governments of Australia and the USA 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). These policies seek to ensure that these residents improve their living conditions, accessibility to health services and quality of life.
Both of these communities have issues with the child abuse and alcohol abuse among other substances abuse (Grant, 2016). 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 colonisers, and they have carried on with them despite the changes in generations (Grant, 2016). Furthermore, Hollins (2015) noted that the racism and other social exclusion areas are the reason behind most of the mental illnesses among the indigenous populations. Notably, racism and other social mistreatments are associated with psychological distress, leading to behaviors such as alcohol abuse. A majority of the people engaged in an unhealthy lifestyle to cover what they are feeling.
In both countries, there has been the introduction of strict rules and regulations that seek to protect the indigenous populations from child abuse and the use of hardcore drugs (Grant, 2016). However, these rules have led to the disruption of the Native Americans and Aborigines since they are enforced without consultation. These communities fight for recognition, and it has taken some deaths to justify their mission.During the colonisation, 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 colonisation, 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 organisation (Neumayer, 2013). Furthermore, Neumayer (2013) argued that the ideology emerged from the Social Report Justice in 2005,required that the health is made a right for everybody. The campaign aims to increase the life expectancy and the health of the aborigines to the same levels as those who are non-aboriginals by 2031. In addition, Browne, Adams, & Atkinson (2016) claimed that the campaign about health equity began as early as 2006 and mostly focused on closing the gap of life expectancy between the two population groups by concentrating on solvin issues that were strongly impacting the health of the indigenous population.
Amongst the issues that were found affecting indigenous health, improving the health of the aborigines through right food choices and healthy diets were the main focuses. In this case, the Council of Australian Government (COAG) promised to let the aborigines to buy a standard health food basket at a cost of 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 which disadvantaged the aboriginals in Australia. The objectives were to halve the gap of the indigenous student’s education by 2018, to close the life expectancy gap, to halve the mortality rates of the aboriginal kids below five years within a decade, to halve 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(Jamieson, 2013).The government needs to implement more policies and develop programs that are bound to ensure that the aborigines achieve adequate health (Browne et al., 2016). Some of the recommendations to create equality amongst the Australian populations are;
- The government should incorporate indigenous culture into university curriculums, allowing students to gain a better understanding of indigenous people and their culture and beliefs, eventually minimizing discrimination, prejudice and mistreatment in the society.
- Additionally, the government should provide the natives with more job opportunities to increase their income, subsequently their socioeconomic status and quality of life. The government should also provide vocational training programs to the aboriginal populations, which allows them to become more skillful and competent.
- Thirdly, the government should
create settings-based interventions to help the aboriginals improve their health
status, especially on childhood services and other sports clubs.
Conclusion 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 into stressful situations such as low income which restrict their access to health services and standard diets. Both governments have undertaken different measures to ensure that the disparities between the indigenous population and the other groups are reduced. Unfortunately, the Australian Close the Gap Campaign has been unsuccessful. Therefore, there is an urgent need for the Australian government to develop more measures and undertake different interventions to improve the quality of life and health outcomes of the indigenous population.