Health of indigenous peoplesBMJ 2010; 340 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c1840 (Published 19 April 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1840
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UN Report on State of the World's Indigenous Peoples: Recognition to Culture, Rights and Needs of the Indigenous People
The world has a 350 million-strong population of indigenous people.
United Nations (UN) has recently published a report on State of the
World's Indigenous Peoples (SOWIP). These people have their own cultures,
rights and needs. A close look at the state of health of these people
will reveal that concepts of Western medicine can not be generalized .
SOWIP is the first UN world report on indigenous people. UN has estimated
that world’s indigenous population comprising of 370 million individuals
lives in more than 70 countries across the globe. The report publication
is a joint effort by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs and
the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The report was launched by
Forum’s Chairperson, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz on Jan 14, 2010 in New York.
The report along with other issues highlights the state of health of
indigenous people who`form 5000 ethnic groups [2, 3]. The complete report
is available at UN website . Adoption of the United Nations Declaration
on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007 provides a framework for
tackling the issues including health problems raised in SOWIP report .
The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) is an
international democratic membership organization having members who find
inadequate representation at major international fora including the United
The report raises several issues which can contribute to the poor
conditions leading to health problems. In comparison to general
population, specified indigenous populations have higher tendencies to
develop cardiovascular illnesses, HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases
such as malaria and tuberculosis; and throat cancer. They also have higher
tendencies to commit suicide. Their life expectancy is considerable
shorter. Malnutrition and disproportionately high maternal and infant
mortality rates have been observed amongst indigenous people. More than 50
per cent of adult indigenous population has been predicted to be suffering
from Type 2 diabetes mellitus. Apart from the above mentioned factors,
issues such as poverty, violence, dispossession of land, marginalization,
forced removal or relocations, denial of land rights, large-scale
development, abuses by military forces etc. also contribute to the
problems of indigenous population .
Health is generally defined as state of physical, mental and social well-being. It can be easily inferred from the problems faced by indigenous
people across the globe that tackling the root cause of problems will
bring health to the individuals and communities. Admitting the existence
of problem is often considered the very first step towards its solution.
Let us be optimistic and hope that due efforts will be made and the
indigenous people will attain the state of complete health in the years to
1. Cunningham C. Health of indigenous peoples. BMJ 2010; 340:c1840.
2. OHCHR Webpage:
accessed on June 10, 2010.
3. UN webpage http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/ accessed on Jun 10, 2010.
4. Complete SOWIP report available at UN Website:
www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/SOWIP_web.pdf accessed on Jun 10,
5. UNPO webpage: http://www.unpo.org/content/view/7782/239/ accessed on
Jun 10, 2010.
6. UNPO webpage: http://www.unpo.org/content/view/10586/83/ accessed on
Jun 10, 2010.
Competing interests: No competing interests