Health Care in the Navajo Nation: Dine Hozho
At Healthline, we love receiving reader feedback from all over the world. This week, we received a greeting from Mr. Kimbrow Talk, a health educator on the Navajo Nation. He reports the challenges of delivering health care and education to his people, many of whom still lack running water and electricity. Mr. Talk, father of three, does home visits and provides health education to elders in the Navajo language. He is but one of the unsung heroes of health care, working to improve health care disparities in our world.
The Navajo Nation is the largest tribe in the US - and one of the youngest with a median age of about 22 years. The per capita income is $6,000 compared to the US average of $21,000 and more than 56% of the Navajo population live below the poverty level. The unemployment rate is 10 times the national average - 43% as opposed to 4.3%. The Navajo Nation is a vast geographic territory challenged by lack of infrastructure in the 21st century. Inadequate paved roads, telecommunications, running water, electricity, sanitation and emergency services all make delivery of health care services challenging.
Interestingly, the people of the Navajo Nation fare better than the general US population in cancer and heart disease deaths. Far worse are deaths from diabetes, alcohol, and pneumonia/influenza. The US death rate for pneumonia/flu is 13% and the Navajo Nation is 21%. What can be done to improve that number? Prevention is key, especially for the elderly or the those with chronic illnesses like asthma. Now is the perfect time for an immunization campaign for both pneumonia and influenza.
Other keys to preventing the flu and pneumonia:
- stop smoking: use of tobacco decreases the body's ability to ward off infection
- wash your hands frequently to prevent the spread of germs
- cover your mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing. Germs travel 3 feet when we sneeze!
- discard tissues properly so that others avoid contact with them
- wash dishes in hot water so that others are not contaminated by germs
- wear a mask or scarf over your mouth and nose when cleaning dusty and moldy areas.
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