Pacific Islanders’ Health History
Unbelievable and long history of Pacific Islanders began in Southeast Asia many years ago, when people decided to leave the Indonesian archipelago and migrate to islands near the Pacific Ocean. They sailed in large canoes, which could contain up to 200 passengers. Since ancestors of today’s Polynesians did not have any navigation instruments at that time, they relied heavily on using nature to navigate. For centuries, obesity has been considered as an integral feature of Pacific Islanders’ nobleness and wealth despite the fact that excess weight often results in such metabolic disease as diabetes. One of the major concerns that Pacific Islanders have is hypertension. Pacific Islanders who lived in the country hardly knew about their hypertension and the fact that there was treatment with medication as opposed to people from other ethnic backgrounds. According to McLaughlin and Braun (1998), Pacific Islands relied more on traditional remedy for disease because there was not enough medical personnel of their ethnic origin.
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Many people who were interested in the history of Pacific Islanders’ health believed that they would deal with tropical diseases. However, the main health issues facing Pacific Islanders are related to obesity, diabetes mellitus type 2, hypertension, as well as cerebrovascular and cardiovascular diseases. In those areas where health care is not available, human beings succumb to treatable injuries and illnesses. The challenge of providing modern and improved healthcare services to the population scattered over a huge area is daunting. Health risks should be taken into account when caring for populace in the Pacific Islands, and individuals who first migrated to the USA from these areas (Frisbie, Cho, & Hummer, 2001).
Diabetes mellitus remains a common problem among Pacific Islanders. However, just some Melanesians are at a low risk of contracting this disease. Infections of the lower limbs are much greater in the United States. Poorly treated wound leads to amputation and premature death of the patient. In comparison with other ethnic groups, Pacific Islanders rarely seek treatment from specialists, they are less aware of hypertension. Moreover, their hypertension is not adequately controlled. Inhabitants of Pacific Islands have considerable concentration of lipids in their bodies, which portend a high risk of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. Because of obesity among Islanders, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and cerebrovascular diseases are also present. Moreover, because of rheumatic fever among inhabitants, heart disease is also a common issue among those who migrate from Pacific Islands.
Since many Pacific Islanders know almost nothing about how individuals recover from a stroke or heart attack, there is much more recognition that serious diseases can be fatal later in life. Consequently, the process of rehabilitation can be difficult to realize. According to Su and Ferraro (1997), these communities have traditionally revered the elderly. The concept is now well known as filial piety. When old people recover from a stroke, there is a great tendency to satisfy their needs and make last days of these people careless and comfortable rather than engage in independent self-care.
Most of the deaths from tuberculosis continue to occur in the Pacific Islands (Brewer, Heymann, & Harris, 1997). Rheumatic heart diseases, influenza, fever, as well as other viruses are also significant problems for this area. Unfortunately, many Pacific Islander patients do not receive preventive services for rheumatic heart diseases. Moreover, Islanders visit medics less frequently in comparison with the patients from the West. Even facing chronic diseases, these people prefer not to undergo a medical examination. The conception that someone takes medication can be foreign to Islanders. In this case, encouragement and motivation are necessary when taking a long-term medication.
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Opportunities and the quality of life among Pacific Islanders can be improved by facilitating access to the federal programs where inhabitants of Pacific Islanders are underserved. Since the vast region has cultural variability, it is vital for the healthcare providers to be aware of the non-Western health practices that may affect the elderly. Asking informants and cultural guides to educate the health workers will undoubtedly help to avoid any potential miscomprehension among individuals involved.