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Children’s Health in Indian Country

2010 October 18

By Margo Young

As a mom of two young children I relate to any parent or caregiver trying to create a healthy environment for children to thrive and grow. As a public health worker in the field of children’s health protection, I am also acutely aware that the environments we raise our children in this country are vastly different from neighborhood to neighborhood, city to city, state to state, and that these differences impact the health and well-being of our children.

This is especially true in Indian Country. While many Native American populations maintain intricate and ecologically interdependent relationships with the natural environment, these relationships have been impacted by environmental pollution, changes in subsistence lifestyles and political isolation, which threaten the health, wellness, and way of life of tribal communities. In light of Children’s Health Month, it is appropriate to highlight these differences, but also embrace the common goal of protecting our most vulnerable populations of children.

Children often bear a disproportionate impact from environmental contaminants. Living conditions, walkable communities, access to play areas and health care and limited resources are some of the challenges that tribal communities face in addressing environmental health issues. American Indian and Alaska Native children are more than twice as likely to suffer from asthma and other respiratory diseases and are more likely to be hospitalized from these chronic conditions. These illnesses can be caused or exacerbated by substandard housing conditions and poor indoor air quality, including mold and moisture, wood burning, the use of pesticides and other chemicals, smoking and inadequate ventilation. Fixing and addressing these problems can prevent certain life-long impacts on children.

The good news is that there are many actions we can take to address these issues and make homes and communities healthier for children. You can find information and tips on improving indoor air quality in tribal communities from EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Tribal Partners Program. Protecting the health of children is a compelling motivation to improve our environment — during Children’s Health Month and throughout the year. Take the initiative now and find out what you can do to improve children’s health.

About the Authors: Margo Young lives in Seattle and is the Region 10 Children’s Environmental Health and Environmental Education Coordinator and has been with EPA for over 5 years.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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7 Responses leave one →
  1. Carol Murphy permalink
    October 18, 2010

    Hi Margo. I am interested in native well being like you, i live in Canada, and i became aware of the very difficult situation, that is a fact of life for aborigional people,that they really do not have a place in our society, a place that recognises them. I have written native stories for children, i know that self esteem is so often the vehicle that carries people forward and that low self esteem is a reason that keeps aborigional people at the back of the Ball park. when we are a society that embraces people from so many cultures,we just arent doing enough to help those who so need a push toward the freedom and life that we all have, i will not look down on a person who deserves every bit the same place that everyone else expects and has. Carol Murphy.

  2. armansyahardanis permalink
    October 18, 2010

    I ever to bring up the kid of a Transmigrant. Different place and culture make difficulties approaches. Just one resolve from me, he must be a man : studying and after that working. Year by year he was growing up and understood of our differences and also our neighborhood. My neighbor also to support him to be a man and to care him. Now he has a boy and happy with his wife…..

  3. Margo permalink
    October 19, 2010

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. These are very real challenges that we face and we need to pay attention to overall well-being, which includes everything in our environment, our sense of self, family life, and others and respect traditional knowledge while trying to work toward environmental and social justice.

  4. Margo permalink
    October 19, 2010

    Thanks Carol for your thoughtful comment. I agree that we need to work toward overall well-being which is multi-faceted and complicated and does include sense of sense, environment, family and all other components in our life. Holistic approaches and respecting traditional knowledge shuld play a big factor in working to address concerns in tribal communities.

  5. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    October 24, 2010

    We really do have to take a holistic approach in dealing with environmental problems on tribal lands, most especially taking into account the traditions and ideas of the particular culture concerned. It is also true that some of the most polluted areas are those on tribal lands and in low income minority neighborhoods in big cities. Alot needs to happen to change this. Less polluted water could be provided tribal communities by removing dams and restoring wild rivers with their natural eco-systems. Nitrate and chemical contamination are other important issues to be looked at. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  6. cincinnati mold remediation permalink
    November 29, 2010

    I agree, we must protect our children against toxic and chemical contamination keep up the good job.

  7. James Briguel permalink
    December 8, 2010

    yes…nice blogs…thanks for sharing with us..I do agree with you all guys..we must protect our children..

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