Editorial: Aboriginal Populations and Their Neglected Tropical Diseases

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
January 2014

Aboriginal Populations and Their Neglected Tropical Diseases
Peter J. Hotez mail
Published: January 30, 2014
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0002286

Although Aboriginal people make up a small percentage of the worlds population, they are disproportionately affected by poverty and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Unless prioritized, Aboriginal populations may be the last to receive access to essential medicines as part of global NTD elimination efforts.

An estimated 370 million people are today classified as belonging to Indigenous or Aboriginal groups [1], [2]. According to Gracey and King, included among the major criteria defining these populations are self-identification as belonging to an Indigenous group historical ties to specified geographic areas and natural resources, frequently followed by external invasion or colonization a distinct culture with beliefs and ceremonies and resolve to maintain ancestral environments and manage their own affairs [1]. However, there is not universal agreement on what constitutes an Aboriginal group, leading in some cases to exclusion or further marginalization [1]. As a whole, Aboriginal populations are disproportionately impoverished, accounting for 15 of global poverty even though they comprise only 5 of the global population [3]. Poverty, especially rural poverty, and its associated poor housing and sanitation, environmental degradation, inadequate or improper nutrition, forced migrations, and lack of access to health care, combine and synergize to create a number of adverse health consequences for Aboriginal populations [1], [2]. These include a spectrum of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease (frequently related to tobacco consumption), as well as interpersonal violence and suicide often linked to alcohol and drugs [1], [2]