Indigenous Determinants of Health


Indigenous Peoples approach health as an equilibrium of spirituality, traditional medicine, biodiversity, and the interconnectedness of all that exists. This leads to an understanding of humanity in a significantly different manner than non-Indigenous peoples. This differing perspective introduced a collaborative effort between Indigenous academics, Indigenous NGOs including the National Indian Health Board, and other stakeholders that produced the Indigenous Determinants of Health (IDH) report. This report was adopted in May by the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

The 76th World Health Assembly (WHA) adopted a resolution on Indigenous Health, including developing a global action plan by 2026. The WHA resolution and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP)’s study on the “Right to health and Indigenous Peoples with a focus on children and youth” (2016) are aligned and supported by the work of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). UNPFII Members have acknowledged the importance and need for a global policy on Indigenous health adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in addition to the Pan-American Health Organization’s (PAHO) mandate for the Americas. The uniqueness of Indigenous Peoples is acknowledged in the spirit of the UNPFII 2030 Agenda, as Member States are called on to empower them by including in-progress reviews for national implementations of the Agenda, in which specific targets are set under Goals 2 and 4 of 17. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic highlighted the entrenched inequities Indigenous Peoples face in all 17 Goal areas and how the severe lack of cultural competence within the 17 Goals negatively impacts Indigenous Peoples’ health.

The National Indian Health Board (NIHB) has and continues to support global Indigenous Rights, including the mobilization of local community leaders to urge the United States government to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). NIHB actively participated in UNPFII’s sessions, and in April, NIHB supported the UNPFII adoption of the Indigenous Determinants of Health (IDH), a paper written by an International Working Group that included NIHB and designed as a tool to help the UN Member States understand the social determinants of health as they relate to Indigenous Peoples.

In May, at the 76th WHA, NIHB supported the WHO adoption of the IDH through the enacting of a resolution, which shows both its commitment to the health of Indigenous Peoples globally and a practical example of the instrumentation of global instruments at the national level to support the well-being of Indigenous Peoples.

On July 18, Chairman William Smith testified about the importance of culture in healing for Indigenous People at the 16th Session of the EMRIP.Now, NIHB is focused on ensuring these organizations continue to listen to Indigenous Peoples to create further recommendations on health.

Read the IDH report here.

Statements by Report Authors during the 22nd Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues


Postcard Brazil Resolution on the
Health of Indigenous Peoples
UN Presentation

Press Releases


Johns Hopkins
Center for Indigenous Health

National Indian Health Board
50 F St NW, Suite 600 | Washington, DC 20001 | Phone: 202-507-4070 | Email: [email protected]