Cultural Assessment of the Health of Native Americans


Native Americans are the American Indians and the natives of Alaska. They are the people who possessed the land that is now known as the United States before the coming of the European Americans and the African Americans (Brown2007, pp.2-5). There are more than 500 tribes of Native Americans residing in the United States at the moment (Brown2007, pp.7-8). The population was high at the time the European Americans arrived in the Americas but the killings that took place in successive violent encounters with the Europeans who considered them savage reduced their numbers to hundreds of thousands instead of millions (Fleming2003, pp. 4-7). Other factors that may have contributed to the reduction of their numbers are disease outbreaks. The current standing in terms of numbers is around 4.2 million (Wilson 2000, pp.23-24). They speak different languages that have the same roots. It is however not surprising to find one tribe using a language that someone from another tribe cannot understand completely. In nutrition, these people used to rely on their dishes that constituted vegetables and meats from such animals as goats but the influence from other groups such as Hispanics has affected their eating habits too.


Leaving the above aside, Native Americans were left out of the American picture for a very long time. When the arriving European Americans were busy killing them, taking their land, and advancing their own lives in terms of education and health, Native Americans had to contend with their traditional ways that had little to do with an academic education (Nies 1996, pp.45-47). This is a changing trend given the number of Native Americans who have gone to school and can compete for jobs with the rest of the Americans. Their literacy levels are however low compared to white Americans and African Americans; a population with the fastest growth in literacy levels. As of the year 1999, literacy levels of Native Americans were still below seventy percent; an indication of low educational acquisition in the group (Wilson 2000, pp.32).

Apart from the above, Native Americans take human health seriously. They are currently part and parcel of the American health enhancement efforts but this never used to be the case. This is because these people had a lot of confidence in traditional medical systems and beliefs that existed in their community. These systems have such elements as offering sacrifices as well as the utilization of herbs (Trafzer2001, pp.5-7). They also had a strong belief that sickness had its origins in the displeasure of the gods and therefore all that was to be done was to appease the gods and all would be well (Taylor 1999, pp.19-21). These beliefs have not vanished completely as they are still being practiced by some tribes. This is not however to a large extent in that the government has made inroads in bringing them on board as far as healthcare is concerned and their community leaders are now actively working with the government to enhance access to healthcare services, a condition that was comparable to that of a poor third world country like Mongolia as of 1994 (Nies 1996, pp.57-58).

The nature of health among these people in terms of status and provision is below the rest of the American standards (Wilson 2000, pp.77-79). They die at rates that are higher than other Americans. Alcoholism and tuberculosis are among the highest rates when compared to the rest of the American population. These two problems kill them at rates of more than 500%. Homicide, car crashes, suicide, unintentional injuries, and diabetes kill them at rates that are higher than 150% (Wilson 2000, pp. 55-56).

At present, the Indian Health Services (IHS) is responsible for the provision of health services but it is not sufficient and the federal government supplements. There are still issues with provision but things are changing for the better. The active lobbying by groups that have come out in support of this group has led to increased attention by the government; which ideally should be concerned with the health conditions of all Americans. What is the implication of this information as far as nurses are concerned?

The above information is very crucial to nurses in several ways. To begin with, the high death rates mean that nurses should be prepared to deal with health concerns that are more demanding than in other areas within the United States. Also, they should be ready to communicate the ongoing effort by the involved parties to improve the health conditions of these people.

As seen in the Native Americans’ case, this cultural, assessment theory is good in that it considers the real life of the concerned people in trying to understand health services. The underside is that it takes a long to have such a comprehensive analysis of culture for a given group of people.


Cultural assessment is excellent as seen in the case of Native Americans. It gives a comprehensive view of the group. The disadvantage is that it takes time to carry out.


Brown, D. ( 2007).Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West (1st ed.).New York: Holt Paperbacks.

Fleming, W. (2003).The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Native American History.New York: Alpha Books.

Nies, J. (1996). Native American History: A Chronology of a Culture’s Vast Achievements and Their Links to World Events (1st ed.).New York: Ballantine Books.

Taylor, C & Sturtevant, W (eds.). (1999). The Native Americans: The Indigenous People of North America. New York: Advanced Marketing Services.

Trafzer, C. (2001). Medicine Ways: Disease, Health, and Survival among Native Americans (Contemporary Native American Communities. New York: Altamira Press.

Wilson, J. (2000). The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America (1st Grove Press ed.). New York: Grove Press.

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