Improving quality of life for indigenous peoples

December 19, 2007

Further efforts are needed to improve the health and wellbeing of indigenous peoples in developed countries all over the world, according to a report published today in the online open access journal, BMC International Health and Human Rights. The study points to a worrying lack of progress for the Australian indigenous population during the 1990s.

'Human Development' is a concept developed by the United Nations Development Program to encompass the economic, educational and health status of a population and is measured by the Human Development Index (HDI). Martin Cooke, of the Department of Sociology and the Department of Health Studies and Gerontology, at the University of Waterloo, Ontario and colleagues in Australia and Canada describe how the countries of the developed world are consistently at the top of the HDI rankings. However, indigenous peoples in those countries commonly have much poorer health and social conditions than the non-indigenous population.

Until now there has been little data on the relative improvements in the socioeconomic and health status of the indigenous and non-indigenous populations, and whether the gap between the groups was growing .the researchers say. With this in mind, they used government sources to obtain census data on life expectancy, educational attainment and income to obtain a modified HDI measure for indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in 4 countries for the period 1990 to 2000.

The team found that the HDI scores of indigenous peoples in the United States, Canada and New Zealand improved at a faster rate than that of the general population, essentially closing the gap in human development. However, the opposite was seen in Australia where the gap widened during the 1990s.

The researchers point out that we are now two years into the United Nations International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples, and the present study should serve as a wake-up call that we cannot become complacent in efforts to improve the social, economic and physical health of the indigenous peoples of the developed world.
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Notes to editor:

1. Indigenous well-being in four countries: An application of the UNDP'S Human Development Index to Indigenous Peoples in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States
Martin Cooke, Francis Mitrou, David Lawrence, Eric Guimond and Dan Beavon
BMC International Health and Human Rights (in press)

During embargo, article available at: http://www.biomedcentral.com/imedia/1015747504146111_article.pdf?random=425488

After the embargo, article available at journal website: http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcinthealthhumrights/

Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

Article citation and URL available on request at press@biomedcentral.com on the day of publication

2. BMC International Health and Human Rights is an open access journal publishing original peer-reviewed research articles in health care in developing and transitional countries, and all issues relating to health and human rights. BMC International Health and Human Rights (ISSN 1472-698X) is indexed/tracked/covered by PubMed, CAS, Scopus, EMBASE, and Google Scholar.

3. BioMed Central (www.biomedcentral) is an independent online publishing house committed to providing immediate access without charge to the peer-reviewed biological and medical research it publishes. This commitment is based on the view that open access to research is essential to the rapid and efficient communication of science.

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