Harsh reality of Native American health

St. Joseph’s Indian School’s Personal Living Skills (PLS) class is taking it up a notch!

The class has been exploring the relationship between diet and exercise.  PLS class promotes good health, emphasizing ways to reduce sugar, salt and fat in the diet.  Our Lakota (Sioux) students learn healthy snack options and how to make healthy choices when eating out.  They also learn why fitness is important and what they can to do maintain a healthy weight in order to live a healthy and productive life.

Health Facts

Chronic diseases, such as obesity and type II diabetes persist in Native Americans at rates that are significantly higher than those in other ethnic minority populations.  A primary cause of this epidemic outbreak can be linked to the shift of tribal traditions.   With a culture that once solely survived off of the crops they harvested, Native American’s diets are now filled with processed foods high in fat and sodium with limited intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  In addition, the average physical activity level is significantly lower than the recommended amount.  The poor quality of the current diet and lifestyle of Native Americans is endangering their quality of life.

Type II diabetes is one of the most serious health problems for Native Americans in the United States.  According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Indian Health Service, Native Americans are 2.2 times more likely to have diabetes compared with non-Hispanic whites.

95% of Native Americans with diabetes are diagnosed with type II diabetes.

Just as type II diabetes can be the result of  inadequate diet and insufficient physical activity, it can also be managed and potentially cured by diet and lifestyle modifications.

Another health condition that is seriously affecting the American Indian population is obesity. Native American obesity is a major risk factor for both type II diabetes and heart disease.

On average, 30% of all Native Americans are obese.

Both males and females are consistently more overweight and obese than the total U.S. population.  The primary contributors to obesity also include poor diet and insufficient exercise.

Native Americans face a surplus of unfavorable socioeconomic factors which contribute to the rise of obesity and type II diabetes.  Among the list are economic stresses, reduced access to affordable healthful foods, opportunities for safe and varied physical activity, overexposure to targeted advertising and marketing of calorie-dense foods.  Despite these inopportune circumstances it has become critical that Native Americans make significant alterations to their current diet and lifestyles in order to protect their past, present and future legacy.