Public Health and Indigenous Peoples: North America, Australia, and New Zealand
- LAST REVIEWED: 27 April 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 26 July 2017
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0071
- LAST REVIEWED: 27 April 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 26 July 2017
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0071
Indigenous peoples around the world experience a disproportionate burden of disease, mortality, and ill-health when compared to non-indigenous peoples. This is an important global public health issue. The various manifestations of these health disparities and their drivers—although complex, interactive, co-constitutive, dynamic, and always changing—can be most usefully understood within a social determinants of health (SDOH) framework, as demonstrated by the growing bodies of research and evidence explored in the sections of this article. Many international SDOH frameworks are anchored in the 1986 Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion, which is understood as a global milestone in conceptualizing health inequities and disparities. On an international level, the UN has established the right to health in numerous conventions and comments. These documents form an important background for considering the health of indigenous peoples around the world. Indigenous health is an emerging field of research but is seriously limited by a lack of reliable and accurate data in all but a few regions of the world; namely, Canada, Australia, the United States, and New Zealand. As well, much of the existing academic literature about indigenous health is published in English. These geographical and linguistic limitations are reflected in this article. There has been increased attention to research on indigenous health disparities, and, encouragingly, a growing number of new and emerging studies are being led by indigenous researchers and directed by the needs and priorities of indigenous communities. Although research on indigenous health is growing rapidly, and many regions are committing considerable resources and efforts toward improving policies around health promotion and provision of health care for indigenous peoples, progress in improving the life circumstances of indigenous peoples has been slow, and health outcomes in indigenous communities continue to lag behind those in non-indigenous communities.
This section presents general overviews of indigenous health, on the basis of a social determinants of health (SDOH) framework. Social determinants of health are the economic and social conditions that shape the health of individuals and communities. Access to resources and services have a significant impact on health, and a growing body of research confirms the reality that lower socioeconomic status is related to poorer health and wellness outcomes. Given that indigenous peoples in all parts of the world experience disproportionate levels of poverty and social exclusion, SDOH approaches are highly relevant to understanding the health outcomes of indigenous peoples (Carson, et al. 2007; Waldram, et al. 2006). Two complementary articles, Gracey and King 2009 and King, et al. 2009, provide a detailed picture of patterns of health disparities experienced by indigenous peoples around the world and the causes of these disparities. Mitrou, et al. 2014 examines socioeconomic trends among indigenous and non-indigenous populations in three high-income countries to determine whether progress has been made in closing gaps. To date, there have been few indigenous authors published in SDOH academic literature. Reading and Wien 2009 and Greenwood, et al. 2015 are included here to address this gap, providing a uniquely indigenous perspective on the determinants of indigenous peoples’ health. Landmark documents such as Canada’s Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples 1996 and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada 2015 focus on ways in which colonialism, economic marginalization, and social exclusion have negatively affected the health of indigenous peoples and have far-reaching policy implications.
Carson, Bronwyn, Terry Dunbar, Richard D. Chenhall, and Ross Bailie. 2007. Social determinants of indigenous health. Crows Nest, Australia: Allen & Unwin Academic.
This book contains contributions from researchers on SDOHs for indigenous peoples in Australia. Chapters focus on defining health, applying health models to indigenous health, history of colonization and indigenous health, racism, poverty and social class, social capital, education, employment and welfare, indigenous relationships to place and country, housing, policy processes, human rights, and interventions and sustainable programs.
Gracey, Michael, and Malcolm King. 2009. Indigenous health part 1: Determinants and disease patterns. The Lancet 374.9683: 65–75.
This article considers the patterns of disease and ill health among indigenous peoples. It highlights the adverse effects of colonization on indigenous peoples, as well as major health issues such as maternal and child health, the burden of infectious disease, and urbanization and lifestyle diseases on changing patterns of indigenous health.
Greenwood, Margo, Sarah de Leeuw, Nicole M. Lindsay, and Charlotte Reading, eds. 2015. Determinants of indigenous peoples’ health in Canada: Beyond the social. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.
With contributions from primarily First Nations, Inuit, and Métis authors across Canada, this book presents a broader perspective on determinants of indigenous peoples’ health inequalities that goes beyond a focus on strictly social determinants, including colonialism, geography, biology, and culture, and identity, among others. The book makes a unique contribution to the literature because it reflects indigenous worldviews that are holistic and collectivist and embrace culture and language as integral to improved health and well-being, as well as indigenous ways of transmitting knowledge.
King, Malcolm, Alexandra Smith, and Michael Gracey. 2009. Indigenous health part 2: The underlying causes of the health gap. The Lancet 374.9683: 76–85.
As a companion piece to Gracey and King 2009, this article explores the underlying causes of indigenous health disparities, drawing from indigenous perspectives on health and wellness to highlight the colonial disruption of relationships among identity, culture, and the natural world that have resulted in health disparities.
Mitrou, Francis, Martin Cooke, David Lawrence, et al. 2014. Gaps in indigenous disadvantage not closing: A census cohort study of social determinants of health in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand from 1981–2006. BMC Public Health 14:201.
This article compares socioeconomic outcomes (income, employment, and education) between indigenous and non-indigenous—twenty-five- to twenty-nine-year-olds from three developed nations, using census data from 1981 to 2006. All three countries showed large socioeconomic gaps between both population groups over this period, with no significant reductions being made with respect to income and employment and a widening gap in education.
Reading, Charlotte, and Fred Wien. 2009. Health inequalities and the social determinants of aboriginal peoples’ health. Prince George, BC: National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health.
This well-cited report describes the health inequalities experienced by diverse aboriginal peoples in Canada, taking a holistic, life-course approach to account for the proximal, intermediate, and distal determinants affecting their health.
Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. 1996. Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Vol. 3, Gathering strength. Ottawa, ON: Canada Communication Group.
In 1996, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) released a comprehensive five-volume final report that sets out a twenty-year agenda for implementing changes aimed at improving indigenous peoples’ lives in Canada. Vol. 3 provides the context for health and well-being for indigenous peoples, including current problems in family life, health and healing, housing, education, and cultural policy. The report makes recommendations for addressing these problems.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. 2015. Honouring the truth, reconciling for the future: Summary of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Winnipeg, MB: Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
This report documents the truth about Indian Residential Schools in Canada and their impacts on the health and well-being of individuals, families, communities, and nations through the stories of survivors and their families. It presents a framework for reconciliation that includes recommendations for Canada’s political and legal systems, educational and religious institutions, the corporate sector, and civil society.
Waldram, James B., D. Ann Herring, and T. Kue Young. 2006. Aboriginal health in Canada: Historical, cultural, and epidemiological perspectives. 2d ed. Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press.
The second edition of this seminal book serves as a general introduction to the topic, combining epidemiological, historical, and anthropological methodologies and perspectives in a broad overview of indigenous health in Canada.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
- Access to Health Care
- Action Research
- Active Aging
- Active Living
- Adolescent Risk-Taking Behavior in the United States
- Advocacy, Public Health
- Agricultural Safety and Public Health
- Air Quality: Health Effects
- Air Quality: Indoor Health Effects
- Alcohol Availability and Violence
- Alternative Research Designs
- Ambient Air Quality Standards and Guidelines
- American Perspectives on Chronic Disease and Control
- Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)
- Asthma in Children
- Attachment as a Health Determinant
- Behavior Change Theory in Health Education and Promotion
- Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance
- Bicycling and Cycling Safety
- Birth and Death Registration
- Birth Cohort Studies
- Board of Health
- Built Environment and Health, The
- Business and Corporate Practices
- Cancer Communication Strategies in North America
- Cancer Prevention
- Cancer Screening
- Capacity Building
- Capacity Building for NCDs in LMICs
- Capacity-Building for Applied Public Health in LMIC: A US ...
- Cardiovascular Health and Disease
- Child Maltreatment
- Children, Air Pollution and
- Children, Injury Risk-Taking Behaviors in
- Children, Obesity in
- Citizen Advisory Boards
- Climate Change and Human Health
- Climate Change: Institutional Response
- Clinical Preventive Medicine
- Community Air Pollution
- Community Development
- Community Gardens
- Community Health Assessment
- Community Health Interventions
- Community Partnerships and Coalitions
- Community-Based Participatory Research
- Complexity and Systems Theory
- Cultural Safety
- Culture and Public Health
- Definition of Health
- Dental Public Health
- Design and Health
- Dietary Guidelines
- Directions in Global Public Health Graduate Education
- Ecological Approaches
- Enabling Factors
- Environmental Laws
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Ethics of Public Health
- Evidence-Based Pediatric Dentistry
- Evidence-Based Public Health Practice
- Family Planning Services and Birth Control
- Food Safety
- Food Security and Food Banks
- Food Systems
- Frail Elderly
- Functional Literacy
- Genomics, Public Health
- Geographic Information Systems
- Geography and Health
- Global Health
- Global Health Diplomacy
- Global Health Promotion
- Guide to Community Preventive Services, The
- Health Administration
- Health Communication
- Health Disparities
- Health Education
- Health Impact Assessment
- Health in All Policies
- Health in All Policies in European Countries
- Health Literacy
- Health Literacy and Non-Communicable Diseases
- Health Measurement Scales
- Health Planning
- Health Promoting Hospitals
- Health Promotion
- Health Promotion Foundations
- Health Promotion Workforce Capacity
- Health Promotion Workforce Capacity
- Healthy People Initiative
- Hepatitis C
- High Risk Prevention Strategies
- Human Rights, Health and
- Immigrant Populations
- Immunization and Pneumococcal Infection
- Indigenous Peoples, Public Health and
- Indigenous Populations of North America, Australasia, and ...
- Indoor Air Quality Guidelines
- Internet Applications in Promoting Health Behavior
- Intersectoral Strategies in Low - Middle Income Countries ...
- Justice, Social
- Knowledge Translation and Exchange
- Knowledge Utilization and Exchange
- Law of Public Health in the United States
- Media Advocacy
- Mental Health
- Mental Health Promotion
- Migrant Health
- Motor Vehicle Injury Prevention
- Multi-Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis
- National Association of Local Boards of Health
- National Public Health Institutions
- Needs Assessment
- Needs Assessments in International Disasters and Emergenci...
- Obesity Prevention
- Occupational Cancers
- Occupational Exposure to Benzene
- Occupational Exposure to Erionite
- Occupational Safety and Health
- Oral Health Equity for Minority Populations in the United ...
- Ottawa Charter
- Parenting and Work
- Parenting Skills and Capacity
- Participatory Action Research
- Patient Decision Making
- Pesticide Exposure and Pesticide Health Effects
- Physical Activity and Exercise
- Physical Activity Promotion
- Polio Eradication in Pakistan
- Population Aging
- Population Determinants of Unhealthy Foods and Beverages
- Population Health Objectives and Targets
- Precautionary Principle
- Prenatal Health
- Program Evaluation in American Health Education
- Program Planning and Evaluation
- Public Health, History of
- Public Health Surveillance
- Public-Private Partnerships in Public Health Research and ...
- Public-Private Partnerships to Prevent and Manage Obesity ...
- Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment
- Radiological and Nuclear Emergencies
- Randomized Controlled Trials
- Real World Evaluation Strategies
- Reducing Obesity-Related Health Disparities in Hispanic an...
- Research Integrity in Public Health
- Resilient Health Systems
- Rural Health in the United States
- Safety, Patient
- School Health Programs in the Pacific Region
- Sex Education in HIV/AIDS Prevention
- Skin Cancer Prevention
- Smoking Cessation
- Social Determinants of Health
- Social Epidemiology
- Social Marketing
- Statistics in Public Health
- STI Networks, Patterns, and Control Strategies
- Systems in the United States, Public Health
- Systems Modeling and Big Data for Non-Communicable Disease...
- Systems Theory in Public Health
- Traditional, Complementary, Alternative, and Integrative M...
- Translation of Science to Practice and Policy
- Traumatic Stress and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Tuberculosis among Adults and the Determinants of Health
- Unintentional Injury Prevention
- Urban Health
- Vaccine Hesitancy
- Violence Prevention
- Water Quality
- Water Quality and Water-Related Disease
- Weight Management in US Occupational Settings
- Welfare States, Public Health and Health Inequalities
- Worksite Health Promotion
- World Health Organization (WHO)