September 29, 2005
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that there are approximately 2.5 million American Indians in the United States, constituting 0.9 percent of the total population, and that they live primarily in the West, Southwest, and Midwest. Modest growth of these communities is predicted in the next few decades (http://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/c2kbr01-15.pdf (PDF - 453 KB)).
Native American children today suffer disproportionately from diabetes, injuries, and other health problems. The planned National Children's Study (http://www.nationalchildrensstudy.gov) would be the largest research study of the environment's effects on children's health and development ever conducted in the United States. It would follow 100,000 children from before birth to age 21. The study would include Native American children in accordance with their proportion of the population.
The Health of Native American Children
Geographic isolation, economic conditions, and inadequate sewage disposal are among the factors that contribute to poorer health outcomes among the nation's American Indians and Alaska Natives (http://www.cdc.gov/omhd/Populations/AIAN/AIAN.htm). In addition, Native American children bear a disproportionate burden of many health problems. For example:
- Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions among Native Americans. Of Native Americans and Alaska Natives receiving care from the Indian Health Service, 14.5 percent have diabetes. (http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/ )
- Unintentional and intentional injuries pose a particular threat to Native American and Alaska Native children, whose rates of injury are about 2.5 times that of all U.S. children. (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/hus/american.htm)
Through the planned National Children's Study, researchers hope to uncover the root causes of health disparities that would ultimately reduce the health disparities experienced by all groups. Study findings would help Native American communities "and indeed all communities" prevent health problems and keep families healthy, and might even lead to new treatments and cures for diseases.
The NICHD is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the biomedical research arm of the federal government. NIH is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The NICHD sponsors research on development, before and after birth; maternal, child, and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation.