Intended for healthcare professionals


The health status of indigenous peoples and others

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 21 August 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:404
  1. Ian Ring, adjunct professor (,
  2. Ngiare Brown, chief executive officer
  1. School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
  2. Australian Indigenous Doctors Association, PO Box 3497, Manuka, ACT 2603, Australia

    The gap is narrowing in the United States, Canada, and New Zealand, but a lot more is needed

    Indigenous populations differ in levels, patterns, and trends of health. What is common is the unacceptably large differences between the health of indigenous and non-indigenous populations in developed nations. Durie recently outlined the explanations for these disparities and proposed a broad spectrum of interventions to improve the health of indigenous people.1 Within that spectrum, health professionals can have a major role in contributing to dramatic reductions in mortality and morbidity through high quality primary healthcare services for prevention and early treatment.

    The gap in life expectancy between indigenous and non-indigenous populations is estimated to be 19-21 years in Australia, 8 years in New Zealand, 5-7 years in Canada, and 4-5 years in the United States.25 These continuing disparities in health are a matter of major concern, but it is none the less important to recognise the substantial narrowing of the gap in health between indigenous and non-indigenous people in the United States, Canada, and New Zealand.4 …

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