OU Health Addresses Top Health Concerns Among Native Population

Wednesday, January 19th 2022, 6:19 pm

Oklahoma is home to one of the largest Native populations in the country.

Many might not know that Native Americans at a higher risk for conditions like cancer and heart disease.

On January 19, a panel of doctors with OU Health discussed some of the top health concerns Native Americans face.

Cancer, heart disease, and diabetes showed the biggest impact when compared to other demographics.

Doctor Mark Doescher, who works at the Stephenson Cancer Center, said cancer is particularly impacting Natives.

"We're near the bottom of all states on just about every evidence-based cancer screening measure," said Dr. Doescher.

While breast and cervical cancer screening numbers are higher amongst Natives than the general population at 85-percent, colorectal and lung cancer screenings are much lower.

"The incidence rate of all cause cancer, age-adjusted, is over one-third higher than for non-Hispanic Whites in Oklahoma. Amongst American Indians it's 35% higher. The mortality rate is also 25-30% higher," added Dr. Doescher.

Obesity and smoking are two contributing factors to developing cancers and both are common among the Native population.

While doctors say fewer Natives are smoking, that number is still higher at more than 25-percent.

Meanwhile, more than 40-percent of the Native population is obese.

"Avoiding excess calorie intake and being physically active are just two things that go a long way in mitigating the effects of CVD," said Dr. Dorothy Rhoades, with OU Health on advice to avoid developing obesity.

CVD, or cardiovascular disease, is the leading cause of death in Oklahoma for Natives and non-Natives.

Doctor Rhoades said people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop CVD.

"Without concerted efforts to prevent diabetes, cardiovascular deaths and disability may continue to rise," said Dr. Rhoades.

Doctor Rhoades said a concerning number of young Natives have diabetes.

She encourages the American Indian Community to promote healthy lifestyles to address this.