Assessing Health Status, Behavioral Risks, and Health Disparities in American Indians Living on the Northern Plains of the U.S.

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SYNOPSISObjective.We assessed health status and behavioral risks in American Indians (Als) from rural, northern plains reservation communities.Methods.AI interviewers from the communities administered the core and optional modules of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) to 404 AI adults randomly selected from housing lists from four AI tribal communities located on the northern plains of the U.S. The BRFSS interview assessed several health functioning areas including medical conditions, preventive screenings, and behavioral risks. We measured health disparities by comparing the AI sample data with a northern plains statewide (North Dakota) sample and a U.S. national sample. We compared outcomes with BRFSS statewide (North Dakota) and U.S. national data from telephone-based interviews.Results.AI participants showed a significantly greater prevalence of diabetes, coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction, smoking, obesity, and heavy alcohol use than either the regional or national samples. They also reported being less likely to engage in leisure-time physical activity and to have had age-appropriate preventive screenings for several diseases including colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, and cardiovascular disease.Conclusions.Face-to-face interviews conducted by AI community members are an effective means of gathering health information about Als living in rural, reservation communities. Als living in these communities on the northern plains have a much higher prevalence of many health-risk behaviors and some medical conditions than are found in the general population. Improved health-care access, better preventive screenings, and culturally appropriate communitybased health promotion programs and policies should be examined as possible ways to reduce health disparities.

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