ops-salud-pueblos-indigenasLast week, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) — a dependency of the World Health Organization (WHO) — made a call to the Americas governments for increased efforts to improve the health of indigenous populations. In addition PAHO stressed the importance of these groups participation in health systems integration.

As part of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, held in New York last week, Director of PAHO Carissa F. Etienne said that it is needed strengthening initiatives to bring health care access to the indigenous people, so that there will be an improvement in their quality of life.

Etienne’s participation in the “Health of Indigenous Peoples: Integrated health systems” panel highlights the commitment of PAHO on this issue as central to the universal health coverage strategy for the Americas.

According to the technical document presented by PAHO at the conference, indigenous peoples have poorer health compared to other population groups and they are more likely to have disabilities, a lower quality of life and, in many cases, premature death.

Other issue that has caused an alarm in the PAHO is the serious health problems of indigenous women. As, they tend to be disproportionately affected by natural disasters and armed conflict, and often do not have access to education and other economic resources.

Conditions such as malnutrition, diarrhea, parasitic infections and tuberculosis — despite being easily preventable — represent a significant problem for indigenous children. For this population group, deaths caused by these preventable conditions are disproportionately high in comparison other population groups.

Geographical barriers, discrimination, stigma, lack of social and cultural adaptation to the needs of indigenous peoples’ health and lack of integration of traditional medicine, are the reasons impeding health access to indigenous peoples. According to PAHO, these issues are constantly repeated in the countries of the continent.

As part of its initiative to improve the health of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, PAHO seeks, among other things, to harmonize the health systems of indigenous peoples with state health systems. For that reason, it is urgent to develop comprehensive health strategies. In this regard, Catharina Cuellar, PAHO/WHO advisor, stressed the need for participation by indigenous peoples in the entire process of involvement of their health and well-being.

Through: Pan American Health Organization