Indigenous peoples of the United States disproportionately experience chronic diseases associated with poor nutrition, including obesity and diabetes. While chronic disease related health disparities among Indigenous people are well documented, it is unknown whether interventions adequately address these health disparities. In addition, it is unknown whether and to what extent interventions are culturally adapted or tailored to the unique culture, worldview and nutrition environments of Indigenous people. The aim of this review was to identify and characterize nutrition interventions conducted with Indigenous populations in the US, and to determine whether and to what degree communities are involved in intervention design, implementation and evaluation.
Peer-reviewed articles were identified using MEDLINE. Articles included were published in English in a refereed journal between 2000 and 2015, reported on a diet-related intervention in Indigenous populations in the US, and reported outcome data. Data extracted were program objectives and activities, target population, geographic region, formative research to inform design and evaluation, partnership, capacity building, involvement of the local food system, and outcomes. Narrative synthesis of intervention characteristics and the degree and type of community involvement was performed.
Of 1060 records identified, 49 studies were included. Overall, interventions were successful in producing changes in knowledge, behavior or health (79%). Interventions mostly targeted adults in the Western region and used a pre-test, post-test design. Involvement of communities in intervention design, implementation, and evaluation varied from not at all to involvement at all stages. Of programs reporting significant changes in outcomes, more than half used at least three strategies to engage communities. However, formative research to inform the evaluation was not performed to a great degree, and fewer than half of the programs identified described involvement of the local food system.
The extent of use of strategies to promote community engagement in programs reporting significant outcomes is notable. In planning interventions in Indigenous groups, researchers should consider ways to involve the community in intervention design, execution and evaluation. There is a particular need for studies focused on Indigenous youth in diverse regions of the US to further address diet-related chronic conditions.