Intended for healthcare professionals


Health of indigenous peoples

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 19 April 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1840
  1. Chris Cunningham, director
  1. 1Research Centre for Māori Health and Development, Massey University, Private Box 756, Newtown, Wellington, New Zealand
  1. hauora{at}

    Health systems must recognise culture and protect rights as well as needs

    The health of the world’s 350 million indigenous peoples continues to show that Western orthodoxy about health cannot be generalised. Although the health of many of these peoples has improved alongside advances in medicine, even in developed countries the health of indigenous peoples still falls short of the standards of other citizens. With the exception of rare and sometimes familial diseases, no systematic biological, physiological, or genetic causes for these persistent disadvantages seem to exist.1

    In spite of its 240 page length, the recently published United Nations’ report on the state of the world’s indigenous peoples provides a brief, contemporary, and cogent overview of indigenous peoples today.2 Ironically, it does not use any of the 7000 indigenous languages, but it does speak in terms once considered radical and now considered rational.

    The state of indigenous peoples’ health continues to cause concern. Poverty, conflict, dislocation, and powerlessness affect many of the world’s indigenous peoples, manifesting themselves in high rates of maternal and …

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