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BMJ. Aug 23, 2003; 327(7412): 456.
PMCID: PMC188530
Website of the Week

Indigenous health

Upasana Tayal, Clegg scholar

Health Unlimited is a British non-governmental organisation that develops long term projects in remote, often war torn, areas alongside communities and health service providers to help women and children to achieve better health and wellbeing (www.healthunlimited.org). The organisation gives priority to indigenous people and communities affected by conflict and political instability, and has just published a report that says that indigenous people worldwide are unable to access routine health care and are dying prematurely (p 413).

Health Unlimited's website contains information about the organisation's activities in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In the African Great Lakes region, for example, Health Unlimited runs the Well Women Media Project, which produces interactive radio and television programmes, such as Urunana (Hand in Hand), a radio soap opera that is followed by an agony aunt slot highlighting the issues raised in the drama. The programme is written and produced in Rwanda and goes out twice a week through the BBC Great Lakes Lifeline Service and Radio Rwanda. Issues covered include HIV and AIDS, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, birth spacing, girls' rights to education, and income generation for women.

The international medical aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières also works with indigenous people. Reports of its activities in countries such as Guatemala, Panama, and Peru make compelling reading (www.msf.org/content/page.cfm?articleid=038B415C-B2A6-4DDF-B4508ADE4E913684).

There are surprisingly few other good sites on indigenous health. Most focus on Australia or New Zealand and are of variable quality. One worthy exception is Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet (www.healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au). The site is run by a small team of health researchers, multimedia staff, and a librarian. It contains summaries, reviews, and overviews of indigenous health, as well as a useful list of frequently asked questions. The group also works directly with indigenous people to improve their use of the internet.

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