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Minority Women's Health: American-Indians/Alaskan Natives

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For generations, the Indian way of life sought to seek balance — in body, mind, and spirit. Yet displacement, cultural trauma, and high rates of poverty have taken a heavy toll on native peoples and their ways of life. Today, good health eludes many American Indian and Alaska Native communities. In fact, about 1 in 5 American Indians and Alaska Natives has two or more chronic health problems.

Many American Indians and Alaska Natives live on reservations, which often are isolated and lack easy access to health care and jobs. The Indian Health Service (IHS) provides limited health care to American Indians and Alaska Natives. Yet more than 4 in 10 Indians have no access to IHS service. American Indians and Alaska Natives also have high rates of preventable health problems, such as diabetes and obesity, and poor outcomes relative to other groups. These issues, combined with cultural barriers and high rates of unhealthy behaviors, make it hard to improve American Indian and Alaska Native health.

The good news is that the leading health problems facing American Indians and Alaska Natives — diabetes, overweight and obesity, smoking, and injury — are related to lifestyle. American Indian and Alaska Native women can take steps to protect and improve their personal health. Knowing your risks gives you power. By reading about health conditions common in American Indian and Alaska Native women, you'll know what tests to ask your doctor about. You also will see information about behaviors to avoid, as well as lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk of disease.

Health conditions common in American Indian and Alaska Native women

Alcoholism and drug abuse
Breast Cancer
Cervical Cancer
Cirrhosis and liver disease
Heart disease
High blood pressure
High cholesterol
Infant death
Mental health problems and suicide
Overweight and obesity
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Tuberculosis (TB)

More resources on healthy aging and minority health

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.