Health Status > Special Populations

American Indian/Alaska Native Women

Just over one percent of the U.S. adult population, or 2.7 million adults, identify themselves as American Indian or Alaska Native, either alone or combined with one or more other races. American Indian and Alaska Native populations are distributed throughout the country, but are largely located in the West (43 percent), South (31 percent), and Midwest (17 percent); some populations also live in the Northeast (9 percent). The population is diverse and includes many different tribes and cultures. However, these communities generally face many challenges, including higher rates of poverty, lower rates of educational attainment and health insurance coverage, and higher prevalence and mortality rates for a number of diseases than other races.1 American Indians and Alaska Natives are also more likely than adults of other races to smoke, use alcohol, and be overweight or obese.

American Indian and Alaska Native women are less likely than their male counterparts to engage in selected health risk behaviors. The only exception is smoking: in 1999-2003, 34.7 percent of women in this population smoked, compared to 32.3 percent of men. However, women were less likely than men to engage in regular leisure-time physical activity (22.6 versus 30.3 percent).

Compared to women of other races, American Indian and Alaska Native women had the highest rates of heart disease, diabetes, ulcers, and migraines or severe headaches, and the second highest rates of hypertension and cancer.

1 Barnes PM, Adams PF, Powell-Griner E. Health characteristics of the American Indian and Alaska Native adult population: United States, 1999-2003. Advanced Data from Vital and Health Statistics, No. 356; 2005 Apr.

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Women's Health USA 2006 is not copyrighted. Readers are free to duplicate and use all or part of the information contained on this page. Suggested Citation: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Women's Health USA 2006. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2006.