Geneva, May 29, 2023 (PAHO/WHO) – A new resolution to accelerate efforts to ensure indigenous peoples’ health was adopted today at the 76th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland from 21-30 May. The commitment is expected to have significant implications for America, home to more than 62 million Native Americans.
Under the new resolution, countries will develop, fund and implement physical and mental health standards that ensure equal rights for indigenous peoples.
Dr. Marcos Espinal, assistant director of the Pan American Health Organization, emphasized that indigenous peoples in the Americas are at high risk of contracting infectious diseases at a side event to discuss indigenous health. An increase in rates of non-communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, as well as diabetes.
“That’s why this decision is so important for our region, because it is based on strategies that address the unique environmental and social conditions in which indigenous people live,” he said.
This includes measures to address social issues of health, including poverty, poor housing and lack of access to education, economic opportunity, social protection and water and sanitation.
As indigenous women are experiencing worse maternal health outcomes across countries, the resolution specifically focuses on ensuring maternal and adolescent health, particularly access to sexual and reproductive health services.
It also calls for increased investment in training indigenous health care professionals and plans to incorporate evidence-based traditional and complementary medicine into indigenous health services.
When the proposal was presented, the American countries emphasized the importance of ensuring a cross-cultural and cross-sectoral approach in developing indigenous health policies that overcome the challenges of gender, geography, age, language, and digital connectivity.
The resolution states that there is a need to generate more disaggregated data to expand their knowledge of the specific health status of indigenous peoples.
PAHO continues to work with American nations to ensure indigenous health. This includes implementing the organization’s leadership Action strategy and plan on ethnicity and health in 2019-2025It is in line with international commitments to ensure the right of indigenous peoples to health. This strategy includes measures to address the most urgent health needs of indigenous peoples, such as reducing maternal mortality, reducing infant mortality and reducing the burden of TB among indigenous peoples.