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In this presentation, Dr. Lawrence Schell talks about how globally, aboriginal populations have been in great decline, demographically and culturally. American Indians continue to be the poorest and the least healthy population within the borders of the United States. They are the most severe victims of health disparities in the US. Health disparities are preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence, or opportunities to achieve optimal health that are experienced by socially disadvantaged populations ( Health disparities result from multiple factors, including poverty, environmental threats, inadequate access to health care, individual and behavioral factors, educational inequalities, higher rates of cancers and diabetes. There are many health risk behaviors that are more common among American Indians and Alaskan Natives also. Since 2001, in comparison to other racial/ethnic groups, they have had the largest or next largest percentage of 18 year olds without a doctor visit. In addition, some face the additional problem of an environment polluted by industries. In our study of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation who are impacted by nearby pollution with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), we saw that sexual maturation was earlier in girls in relation to their PCB level, and testosterone levels in adolescent boys were lower in relation to theirs. Thyroid hormone levels were altered also. Among adult women the risk of not ovulating was related to their level of PCBs. These are especially difficult effects considering that the survival of the culture and the people are a primary concern of the Akwesasne Mohawk people and of many American Indian and Alaskan Native groups.


Profile: Lawrence M. Schell, Director of the Center for the Elimination of Minority Health Disparities, also is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology and in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. His research on environmental health focuses on the physical growth and development of children, particularly the effects of pollutants among disadvantaged groups. Put in anthropological terms, his research concerns adaptation, or lack thereof, to urbanism. A corollary theme of his work is the role of socio-cultural factors in health. His recent publications are based on three NIH funded studies: two ongoing studies of Mohawk adolescents and young adults, and an earlier study conducted in Albany, NY investigating influences on lead levels of mothers and infants and the effects of lead on infant development. Recent publications include a paper in Pediatrics on the effects of polychlorinated biphenyls and lead on the timing of human sexual maturation and another on testosterone levels in adolescent boys in relation to toxicant levels. Other recent publications have detailed the role of maternal diet and body composition on the transfer of lead from mother to fetus, and the influence of infant diet on the infant's acquisition of environmental lead, and the growth and development of Akwesasne Mohawk adolescents. He also has published several reviews on urbanism, pollution and child health. He received his Ph.D. in biological anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania; his B.A. from Oberlin College.

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