By Linda Burhansstipanov, M.S.P.H., Dr.P.H.
Founder, Native American Cancer Research Corporation and President, Native American Cancer Initiatives, Inc., Pine, Colorado
Linda U. Krebs, RN, Ph.D., AOCN, FAAN
Associate Professor (retired), College of Nursing, University of Colorado at Denver, Anschutz Medical Campus
American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) have long experienced lower health status than other U.S. populations do. AI/ANs born in 2011 have a lower life expectancy than all other U.S. populations (73.7 years vs. 78.1 years). The poverty level among AI/ANs is nearly twice that of the overall U.S. population, and only half as many AI/ANs have health insurance.
The socioeconomic conditions where people live and work have a substantial influence on health, and effects are cumulative over a lifetime., In the United States, educational attainment and income are the indicators most commonly used to measure the effect of socioeconomic status on health.3 Compared with other populations, AI/ANs are more likely to have lower socioeconomic status and to live in poverty, leading to less access to cancer prevention and screening and other healthcare services. Additionally, 20 percent of AI/ANs have not completed high school, compared with 8 percent of non-Hispanic Whites. Not completing high school has been associated with unhealthy and risk-taking behaviors.