Exploring the Impact of Disease on Native American Communities

Exploring the Impact of Disease on Native American Communities

Disease has been a major factor that has affected Native American communities throughout history. Over time, many native populations have been decimated by diseases brought in by European explorers and settlers. Today, even with the advances in modern medicine and healthcare, Native Americans continue to experience greater rates of disease than other groups in the United States. In this article, we will explore the impact of disease on Native American communities.

A Brief History

The arrival of Europeans in the Americas in the 16th century brought with it a host of infectious diseases. These diseases, such as smallpox, influenza, and measles, were completely unknown to native populations. As a result, they had no natural immunity to these diseases which made them susceptible to mass outbreaks. It is estimated that smallpox alone killed millions of Native Americans during this time. This tragic history formed the basis of the impact of disease on Native American communities.

The Present Day

Despite progress in healthcare, Native Americans still experience high rates of disease. According to the Indian Health Service, Native Americans are twice as likely to have diabetes than any other group in the United States. Furthermore, the rate of liver cancer is higher among Native Americans than any other ethnic group. The reasons for these disparities are complex but have been attributed to a lack of adequate healthcare facilities, poverty, and limited access to healthy foods.

Cultural Issues

Another factor that has contributed to the impact of disease among Native American communities is cultural issues. For example, many Native Americans are hesitant to use modern medicine due to cultural beliefs and the importance of traditional healing practices. This has resulted in a high reliance on traditional medicine, which in some cases may not be effective against modern diseases.


In conclusion, the impact of disease on Native American communities is a complex issue that has historical, present-day, and cultural factors. As we have seen, disease has had a devastating impact on Native Americans throughout history. Today, despite advancements in healthcare, they continue to experience higher rates of disease than other groups. Addressing health disparities in Native American communities will require a multi-faceted approach addressing issues such as poverty, inadequate healthcare facilities, and cultural barriers. By doing so, we can ensure that Native Americans can overcome the impact of disease and have better healthcare outcomes.

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