Key Indian Health Issues: Diet and Nutrition

Diet & Nutrition

Key Indian Health Issues:  Diet and Nutrition

Dietary factors are associated with four of the ten leading causes of death for US all races population: coronary heart disease, some types of cancer, stroke, and type 2 diabetes (HP2010).  Among American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN), diet and physical activity are related to five of the six leading cause of death adults: heart disease, malignant neoplasm, accidents, diabetes mellitus, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, and cerebrovascular disease (Rhoades, 2000). image

Eating habits can be affected by a variety of factors including access to quality foods and participation in food assistance programs (Rhoades, Food Perceptions). In 1995, AI/AN households were 78% food secure while the US all races households were 88% food secure according to the Food Security Supplement to the Current Population Survey.

Over the last 200 plus years, tremendous changes have occurred in the food systems of AI/AN. Traditional food systems in the Northwest Portland Area included hunting, fishing and gathering.  Over the years these activities have declined and AI/AN have an increased reliance on purchased food and Federal food program commodities.  These changes in type of food and physical activity have proven detrimental to the health of tribal communities.

According to the 2001 NW Tribal BRFSS Project, 13.7% of respondents reported average fruit and vegetable consumption of less than one serving per day, compared to around 5 % for the general population BRFSS respondents in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. In contrast, only 6.5% of the 2001 NW Tribal BRFSS Project respondents claimed to consume five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day, compared to between 13.4%-15.8% for the general population BRFSS respondents in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Only around a quarter (27.6%) of the NW Tribal BRFSS Project respondents claimed to consume three or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day, compared to nearly half (45.9%-51.6%) of the general population BRFSS respondents in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.

The Tribes of the Northwest Portland Area are keenly interested in improving the health status of AI/AN.  Visit our project web pages to learn about NPAIHB work to improve diet and nutrition.
 Rhoades ER, Ed., American Indian Health: Innovations in Health Care, Promotion, and Policy, 2001. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 488 p.

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