Millennium development goals ignore health of indigenous people worldwide

May 25, 2006

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), as they stand today, will allow whole populations of indigenous people to disappear, warn the authors of a paper in The Lancet's series on indigenous health, which begins this week. Indigenous people are 'invisible' in all the benchmarks currently proposed in the MDGs, state the researchers.

Indigenous people, who make up around 6% of the world's population, hold valuable knowledge about our environment and its medicines. However, as the series reveals, their health is considerably poorer than their non-indigenous counterparts in numerous areas. Life expectancy is substantially lower for indigenous people, and disparities exist in rates of infectious diseases, heart disease, and diabetes. Access to health services and health education is often worse for indigenous peoples, while even in wealthy countries such as Canada, the USA, New Zealand and Australia, suicides, alcohol, and drug-related problems are common in indigenous communities. For isolated indigenous peoples in Asia, Latin America, and Africa the situation is even more severe: routinely they face expulsion from their lands, human rights abuses, the introduction of 'new' diseases, and exploitation of the natural resources they have protected.

In their paper 'Disappearing, displaced, and undervalued: a call to action for Indigenous health worldwide' researchers from The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) are calling for greater respect for the views of indigenous peoples in all research and policies affecting them. They say that that major international policies like the MDGs encourage targets to maximise health benefits for the majority, ignoring health issues facing minority groups, such as indigenous communities.

"...the Millennium Development Goals as they stand today could be achieved even while whole populations of Indigenous peoples disappear. Yet indigenous peoples are affected by all the goals related to hunger, education, and ill health," states lead author Carolyn Stephens from LSHTM. "Indigenous people might continue to be ignored by international policy because they do not fit into the lens of utilitarianism that has predominated in the creation and action of health policy," she adds.

Without action to improve the survival of indigenous communities the authors warn that the health of non-indigenous populations may also suffer. Unique knowledge about the benefits of the ecosystem for health and medicine could be lost forever if these communities disappear.

In a Comment to launch the series Richard Horton, Editor of The Lancet, writes: "Perhaps the most urgent call of all is to remove the cloak of invisibility from the shoulders of indigenous peoples - not only to reflect their diversity and heritage, but also to reflect on their cultural fragility and to protect and strengthen their essential, foundational place in human society."
Contact: Dr Carolyn Stephens, Public and Environmental Health Research Unit, Department of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, WC1E 7HT, UK. via the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine press office T) 020 7927 2073.

The Lancet press office T) +44 (0) 207 424 4949/4249

Notes to editors
Four papers form the Lancet series. Paper 1, published in this week's issue, focuses on the health issues affecting indigenous people in Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific. Paper 2 looks at indigenous health in Latin America and the Caribbean, while paper 3 assesses the health of indigenous communities in Africa. Paper 4 is the call to action. The embargo for the whole series is 00:01H (London time) Friday May 26, 2006.

Six original research papers drawing attention to the predicaments faced by indigenous people accompany the series. The first on the health disparities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal infants is published this week.

The Lancet website will have testimonies from indigenous communities around the world to accompany the series. Visit


Related Health Articles from Brightsurf:

The mental health impact of pandemics for front line health care staff
New research shows the impact that pandemics have on the mental health of front-line health care staff.

Modifiable health risks linked to more than $730 billion in US health care costs
Modifiable health risks, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking, were linked to over $730 billion in health care spending in the US in 2016, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health.

New measure of social determinants of health may improve cardiovascular health assessment
The authors of this study developed a single risk score derived from multiple social determinants of health that predicts county-level cardiovascular disease mortality.

BU study: High deductible health plans are widening racial health gaps
The growing Black Lives Matter movement has brought more attention to the myriad structures that reinforce racial inequities, in everything from policing to hiring to maternal mortality.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

E-health resource improves men's health behaviours with or without fitness facilities
Men who regularly used a free web resource made significantly more health changes than men who did not, finds a new study from the University of British Columbia and Intensions Consulting.

Mental health outcomes among health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and insomnia among health care workers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic are reported in this observational study.

Mental health of health care workers in china in hospitals with patients with COVID-19
This survey study of almost 1,300 health care workers in China at 34 hospitals equipped with fever clinics or wards for patients with COVID-19 reports on their mental health outcomes, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia and distress.

Health records pin broad set of health risks on genetic premutation
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Marshfield Clinic have found that there may be a much broader health risk to carriers of the FMR1 premutation, with potentially dozens of clinical conditions that can be ascribed directly to carrying it.

Attitudes about health affect how older adults engage with negative health news
To get older adults to pay attention to important health information, preface it with the good news about their health.

Read More: Health News and Health Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to
Can't connect to localhost. Errorcode: 1203