Indigenous inequality is a global problem: study

The study, a collaboration between Australia’s Lowitja Institute and Britain-based The Lancet medical journal, found evidence of poorer health and social outcomes for Indigenous people than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

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But, the level of disadvantage was found to vary across nations, and being Indigenous in a wealthy country did not necessarily lead to better outcomes

The report, Indigenous and tribal peoples’ health: A Population Study, draws on data from 28 Indigenous and tribal groups across 23 countries, and accounts for more than half of an estimated global population of 302-million Indigenous people.

The participating countries included Australia, United States, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Russia, China, India, Thailand, Pakistan, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Myanmar, Kenya, Peru, Panama, Venezuela, Cameroon and Nigeria.

Researchers assessed data on nine key indicators, including life expectancy at birth, infant mortality, low and high birth weight, maternal mortality, educational attainment and poverty.

Life expectancy at birth was five or more years lower for Indigenous populations in Australia, Cameroon, Canada (First Nations and Inuit), Greenland, Kenya, New Zealand, and Panama Infant mortality rates were at least twice as high in Brazil, Colombia, Greenland, Peru, Russia, and Venezuela High proportions of child malnutrition, child obesity, and adult obesity were documented in at least half of the populations for which the report had data Mon of Myanmar fared better in educational attainment and economic status than the benchmark population Low birth weight data were significantly better among the Indigenous populations of Colombia and the USA (American Indian and Alaska Natives).

Data for the full range of health indicators was not available in every country, and results were not compared nation to nation.

Some 65 world experts in Indigenous health were involved in the study.

“What was absolutely critical and unique to this project was being able to work with authors and contributors across the 23 countries,” lead author, Professor Ian Anderson, Chairman of Indigenous Education at the University of Melbourne, said in a statement.

The study responds to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was signed in September last year with the stated aim to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate changes.

It recommends governments develop targeted policy responses to Indigenous health, improve access to health services, and gather Indigenous data within national surveillance systems.