Gaming tribes promote health awareness on reservations
WASHINGTON - The National Indian Gaming Association is raising awareness
about gaming tribes' efforts to promote health and wellness among Indian
people across the country. Tribes are building new health and wellness
centers and have incorporated preventative care such as diabetes
prevention, heart health programs and weight management into their
According to the IHS, the Native population in the United States has an
infant mortality rate that is 22 percent higher than the national rate, a
life expectancy more than five years lower than the national average, a
rate of death from alcoholism that is 627 percent greater than the national
rate, an incidence of diabetes that is 249 percent greater than the
national rate and a suicide death rate of 72 percent higher than the
"In the past, Native peoples never had weight problems - this is a
relatively recent phenomenon largely due to an introduced diet that has
included too much sugar, fats and starches," said NIGA Chairman Ernie
Stevens Jr. "Today, with the nationwide epidemic of obesity and, in
general, poor physical fitness of our population at large, tribes are
especially concerned about keeping their families and communities healthy."
According to the NIGA report, tribes now spend 17 percent of their net
gaming revenue on health care. Here are a few examples of how gaming tribes
are helping to improve the physical condition of their tribal members and
providing medical treatment to their Native and non-Native surrounding
With the help of gaming revenues, many tribes have been able to open
state-of-the-art facilities, which help keep tribal members in good
physical condition while responding to many medical conditions that affect
Native peoples, including heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, in north-central Minnesota, encourages
physical fitness through the following programs: the "Take Charge
Challenge," an employee well-ness program; an annual "Walking Program" for
tribal members and employees; the "Marine Marathon" in Washington, D.C.,
which includes a conditioning program to prepare for the marathon; a
diabetes clinic referral for tribal members who need assistance with an
exercise program; and "Walk around Mille Lacs Lake," available to anyone
who wants to participate.
In support of sports, the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana sponsored the
2005 First American Multi-Sport Series, which included the Paragon Casino
Duathlon and the Indian Creek Triathlon. The Paragon Duathlon is a 5K
run/20K bike ride/5K run and the Indian Creed Triathlon is a 1.5K swim/40K
bike ride/10K run. Proceeds from both races will support the Best Buddies
of Louisiana program's efforts to enrich the lives of the state's citizens
with intellectual disabilities.
The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation in Arizona has recently embarked on a
community-wide program of physical fitness. Tribal members and tribal
employees are given physicals and outfitted with pedometers, which they can
clip on and wear during physical exercise. The tribe has begun organizing a
number of physical activities, including a recent run during the nation's
Sovereignty Day celebration in early May.
"Clearly, there is much to be done to increase health and well-ness among
our tribal peoples," said Stevens. "With the help of Indian gaming, Native
communities are making great strides in these areas.
"However, despite all of our gains in recent years, the statistics continue
to tell us that we have a long way to go to get our people healthy and
living long and disease-free lives," said Stevens.