An estimated 370 million Indigenous people reside in 90 countries and make up 5% of the global population. Three hundred million Indigenous people live in extremely disadvantaged rural locations. Indigenous people have suffered from historic injustices due to colonization and the dispossession of their lands, territories, and resources, thus preventing them from exercising their right to development according to their own needs and interests. Across the board, Indigenous people have poorer health outcomes when compared to their non-Indigenous fellow citizens.
Cancer, respiratory disease, endocrine, nutritional, and metabolic disorders, primarily diabetes, affect Indigenous people disproportionately. Newborns of Indigenous women are more than twice as likely to be of low birth weight as those born to non-Indigenous women. Indigenous rates of suicide are the highest in the world.
For public health to be effective, a social determinants approach, along with health interventions, is insufficient to create lasting health impact. Partnerships with Indigenous organizations, Indigenous researchers, and the professionalization of health workers is essential. Integration of traditional medicine and traditional health practitioners can enable the Western biomedical model to work in partnership with Indigenous knowledge systems and become more locally relevant and accountable.
The Indigenous health workforce is increasingly using evidence-based, innovative approaches to address the shortage of health professionals as they move toward universal health coverage. Internet, mobile, and communication technologies are enhancing the mobilization of Indigenous health efforts and the support for health workers in rural locations. Presented are country examples of integrated medicine and Indigenous partnerships that effectively implement health interventions.