Spearheading global change for Indigenous health

Spearheading global change for Indigenous health

The voices of Indigenous peoples are frequently excluded from critical global conversations, but a historic resolution on the health of Indigenous peoples signifies a pivotal opportunity

Indigenous peoples have a rich cultural heritage, profound connections to their ancestral lands, a resilient spirit and a wealth of traditional knowledge that is relevant not only for their own survival and well-being but also for addressing contemporary issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss and the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals.

However, despite their inherent rights and invaluable contributions, their voices are frequently excluded and their rights are disregarded, perpetuating cycles of injustice and inequality. Indigenous peoples often experience higher rates of poverty, malnutrition and inadequate housing. They frequently encounter barriers in access to health services due to geographical remoteness, linguistic and cultural differences, and discrimination. All of these contribute to poorer health
outcomes than experienced by the general population.

A ground-breaking decision was reached at the 76th World Health Assembly in May 2023, when the member states of the World Health Organization unanimously adopted a resolution on the health of Indigenous peoples. This historic resolution, in which the WHO is mandated to spearhead the development of a Global Plan of Action, signifies a pivotal opportunity.

To improve health outcomes of Indigenous peoples, it is imperative that we take concrete actions that are firmly rooted in the advancement of Indigenous peoples’ rights and are designed to ensure their full, effective and equal participation and leadership. Their perspectives and experiences must be central to the decision-making processes that shape policies affecting their health and lives, and the future of this shared planet.

It is time we centred Indigenous voices in the dialogue and ensure our efforts reflect their diverse needs, aspirations and unique wisdom. I hope that this special edition of Health: A Political Choice will be a useful contribution to that conversation.