Report Calls for Improvements in American Indian Health; Wellness Initiative Targeting American Indians Recognized at Annual Conference
Improving the health of American Indians is critical to the survival of the 561 federally recognized tribes and communities in the U.S., according to a report presented this week at the ninth annual International Food Aid Conference, the Kansas City Star reports. Thoric Cederstrom, director of food security and food policy for International Relief & Development, a worldwide food distributor, presented the report, titled "An Overview of the State of Native American Health." Michele Companion, a professor of sociology at the University of Colorado- Colorado Springs, authored the report.
Cederstrom said that years of poor diets have allowed diabetes, obesity, heart disease and other health problems to reach pandemic levels in the American Indian community. One in five American Indians on reservations lives "well below the U.S. poverty line," Companion said, adding that many American Indians rely on government food commodities that are high in saturated fat, carbohydrates and sodium, and low in protein, fiber and other micronutrients. Cederstrom said, "We are talking about millions of American Indians struggling with food and health issues," adding, "A lot of it is due to poverty. The economic impact to this country is huge. The health care costs are in the billions of dollars for Medicaid and Medicare and welfare. And I don't hear any of the presidential candidates talking about it."
Cederstrom also recognized Haskell Indian Nations University's Healthier Haskell program as a model health initiative for American Indian tribes across the nation. Healthier Haskell promotes exercise and proper nutrition among students through wellness events, physical activities, a walking initiative and healthier food options in the school cafeteria (Williams, Kansas City Star, 4/15).