This Is How Proper Access To Healthcare For Indigenous People Should Look Like

Indigenous people are defined as communities that live inside a geographically distinct habitat or tribal area. As such, they identify themselves as members of a particular cultural group that came even before modern states were formed and the current borders across the globe have been specified.


They seek to preserve their own cultural and social identities, as well as their economic and political institutions, separate from the non-indigenous ones. Because of this, they have usually been placed in the sidelines when it comes to delivery of services – particularly healthcare.

According to the World Health Organization, the state of health of various indigenous people all over the world is not necessarily in good condition. In Rwanda, poor sanitation is seven times, and lack of safe water is times, higher than the non-indigenous population.


In Australia, indigenous people have a 26% higher chance of getting diabetes than the others. In Vietnam, over 60% of childbirths happen outside properly supervised prenatal care. And the most unfortunate is that in Panama, average infant mortality rates have reached three times that of the overall population.

Within Physical And Financial Reach

We must start doing away with fee-for-service approaches as these almost always discourage indigenous people from availing of health services. These only provide band-aid solutions that can work for some time but would eventually lose their value in the long run without proper follow up and healthcare education. Frank John Ninivaggi, MD, FAPA, wrote, “Value-based healthcare is a healthcare delivery model in which all providers, including physicians and hospitals, are reimbursed for services based on value—patient health outcomes. This value-based outcome reflects monetary and quality of life worth.”

On the contrary, governments have to help indigenous communities through close partnerships actively. Accessible transportation is the first step for this, followed by having a team of doctors ready to reach out through flexibility in setting appointments and being open even to home visitations. Concerning financial accessibility, governments likewise need to institute health packages and insurance programs designed explicitly for indigenous groups that address their cost concerns.

Holistic And Culturally Appropriate

We have to recognize that indigenous communities have their own beliefs and ways of thinking when it comes to healing. Because of this, we cannot simply force-fit them into the mainstream healthcare systems that we have. They have a more holistic approach when it comes to health, believing that all of a person’s facets-physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual – are all interconnected.

“It’s the belief that the next steps in development are advancements over the old; that we are engaged in this evolutionary experiment in which the process of evolving is to embrace the latest advancements, and eschew what has come before,” explains Stephen Sideroff, PhD, who is an assistant professor at UCLA. “In addition to the harm and destruction this has on indigenous populations, there is also little awareness of how ancient lessons or “traditional knowledges” are very relevant to our resilience and our survival.”


As a response, non-discriminatory health practices should be in place. We need to start making hospitals a friendly and safe space even for indigenous patients to feel cared for and empowered. Also, because indigenous societies have clear gender demarcation, it is crucial to avoid opposite-sex interactions which puts the patients in an uncomfortable atmosphere. Indigenous communities have their own moral and cultural laws that need to be considered in the provision of health care.

Operates In The Context Of Community

We have to stop disregarding the impact of social interactions among indigenous people when it comes to how they view health and wellness. Indigenous traditions are, in fact, highly social, and so are their traditional healing systems. For instance, we cannot simply ignore kinship and other relations that persist in their communities because these are vital in caring for indigenous patients.

“Health involves establishing good relationships with everything in nature, accommodating with openness, humility, and respect,” Darcia Narvaez, PhD, professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame, wrote. “The process of sharing and being listened to, of listening to the unique journeys of recovery promotes healing and self-confidence.”


To make things work, we need to build trust with indigenous people through community ownership of the healthcare systems as this decision-making capacity gives them empowerment. As such, we need more health care professionals who are actually part of their indigenous communities as they are the keys to maintaining cultural respect. Having indigenous health workers also reduce the patient’s anxiety and improve communication with them. In general, community involvement in health care has seen to enhance cross-cultural communication among indigenous communities.

While the delivery of health services to indigenous communities is a challenge for modern societies, it can nevertheless be done with persistent effort. The key to successfully providing health care services to indigenous groups is mutual respect and the acceptance of the fact that their long-standing traditions are vital to the success of health service acceptance.


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