Another Stereotype of the Month entry:
Farmington Daily Times
Article Last Updated: Wednesday, November 20, 2002 -- 12:11:34 AM MST
On being responsible
A recent news story detailed how some Native American leaders are urging their constituents to assume control of their health care.
Rather than dealing with sovereignty or tribal takeovers of federal- or state-operated health facilities, the article dealt with what each Native American person should do to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
The statistics are sobering. Health maladies such as diabetes are reaching epidemic proportions on reservations including here on the Navajo Nation. The root cause of these health problems often can be traced to poor lifestyle choices.
Poor eating habits, such as the consumption of large amounts of fast food and snacks, contributes to a growing obesity problem, which in turn, is one of the leading causes of diabetes.
The problem has been aggravated by the lack of healthy foods on reservations. Many times, people in rural reservation areas have little choice but to shop at convenience stores or trading posts which generally don't offer foods amendable to a healthy diet.
Many reservation communities have few eating establishments other than those offering fast foods. These are the same fast foods that have recently come under fire for contributing large amounts of unnecessary fats to the diet while providing few essential vitamins and other nutrients.
Combine this with high unemployment and low personal income levels often found on reservations and the end result is a health-care crisis that is becoming more and more apparent each day.
The call made by Native American leaders for people to take responsibility for their health is appropriate.
It is advice that all of us should heed.
Even though this editorial tries to be balanced, it ends up blaming Indians for their own problems. It puts "poor lifestyle choices" first and minimizes the effects of high unemployment, low personal income, and a lack of healthy eating alternatives.
Not only does the editorial downplay the factors it lists, it also omits several factors. For starters, many reservations are poverty-stricken. Let's call 'em what they are: poor.
Poverty means many reservations lack adequate health care. What can Indians do if they don't have a car or live 25-50 miles from the nearest doctor? It isn't like the white world where Mom takes Dick and Jane to the doctor and dentist for a yearly checkup. Not even close.
The editorial also ignores genetic factors. Native people were genetically adapted to eat their traditional foods. When they adopted Western food (often because they didn't have a choice), their bodies couldn't handle it. That's not their fault.
In short, all these things plus poor lifestyle choices are factors in the poor health of Natives. But the editorial makes it seem as if lifestyle choices are the primary factor. Maybe they are—it's difficult to quantify these things—but maybe they're not.
Since the nation as a whole—whites and other minorities included—has a growing obesity problem, what's the real point of singling out Native people? It suggests Natives are less in control, have more of a problem, than other people. The implication is that they're lazier and less responsible for themselves.
Indians as welfare recipients
Blaming the victim
. . .
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