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Facts About Indian Health And Death Rates Startling

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      NOVEMBER 1974      v06 n09 p35  
Saskatoon - Startling facts about Indian health and death rates among Indians were included in a recently submitted report to the Minister of Indian Affairs. The brief, prepared by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians in co-operation with Provincial Health officers lists some of the health problems facing Indian people and offers some suggestions to combat the problems.

The infant death rate for registered Indians is 35.3 per 10,000, while the rate for non-Indians is 17.7. Deaths by motor vehicles, fires, drownings, firearms and homicide are all substantially higher for the Indian population. Various ailments such as pneumonia, intestinal infections and many others plague the Indian population to a greater extent than the non-Indian.

With responsibility for Indian Health services presently under the Department of National Health and Welfare rather than Indian Affairs, there are problems existing because of this. While National Health and Welfare sets standards for housing, Indian Affairs is responsible for the construction of the homes.

The Federation of Saskatchewan Indians recommends that health services once again become the responsibility of Indian Affairs as it was prior to 1947. The FSI feels health and medical care is a treaty right and therefore should be administered by the Department of Indian Affairs.

The FSI also recommends that all Indians regardless of their place of residence be covered 100 per cent for health services. The government made a decision in 1968, which would not cover Indian people residing off the reserve for more than 13 months.

Nutritional deficiencies, high mortality and morbidity rates among children, inadequate medical facilities and low standards of sanitation are many of the health problems that exist and must be overcome if the standard of health for Indians is to be equal to the non-Indian population.

The report also recognizes the seriousness of the alcohol problem that exists among many Indians. Related to social conditions, the alcohol problem cannot be solved unless the lack of adequate good housing and poor employment conditions are also dealt with.

Housing and sanitation conditions must improve and then many of the health problems would be eliminated. While Indian Affairs provides funds for house construction, it does not provide any funds for water purification, sewage and garbage disposal or other facilities necessary to run a clean sanitary home.

Meaningful self-help programs should be developed and implemented as soon as possible. Indian people should be allowed to participate in the development of these problems for they best understand many of the health problems they face. The social and economic problems must also be dealt with.