Food customs of rural and urban Inupiaq elders and their relationships to select nutrition parameters, food insecurity, health, and physical and mental functioning

Janell Smith, Florida International University

Abstract

The Inupiaq Tribe resides north of the Arctic Circle in northwestern Alaska. The people are characterized by their continued dependence on harvested fish, game and plants, known as a subsistence lifestyle (Lee 2000:35-45). Many are suggesting that they leave their historical home and move to urban communities, places believed to be more comfortable as they age. Tribal Elders disagree and have stated, "Elders need to be near the river where they were raised" (Branch 2005:1).^ The research questions focused on differences that location had on four groups of variables: nutrition parameters, community support, physical functioning and health. A total of 101 Inupiaq Elders ≥ 50 years were surveyed: 52 from two rural villages, and 49 in Anchorage. Location did not influence energy intake or intake of protein; levels of nutrition risk and food insecurity; all had similar rates between the two groups. Both rural and urban Elders reported few limitations of ADLs and IADLs. Self-reported general health scores (SF-12.v2 GH) were also similar by location. Differences were found with rural Elders reporting higher physical functioning summary scores (SF-12.v2 PCS), higher mental health scores (SF-12.v2 MH), higher vitality and less pain even though the rural mean ages were five years older than the urban Elders.^ Traditional food customs appear to support the overall health and well being of the rural Inupiaq Elders as demonstrated by higher intakes of Native foods, stronger food sharing networks and higher family activity scores than did urban Elders. The rural community appeared to foster continued physical activity. It has been said that when Elders are in the rural setting they are near "people they know" and it is a place "where they can get their Native food" (NRC 2005). These factors appear to be important as Inupiaq Elders age, as rural Inupiaq Elders fared as well or better than Inupiaq Elders in terms of diet, mental and physical health. ^

Subject Area

Anthropology, Cultural|Health Sciences, Nutrition

Recommended Citation

Janell Smith, "Food customs of rural and urban Inupiaq elders and their relationships to select nutrition parameters, food insecurity, health, and physical and mental functioning" (January 1, 2007). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. Paper AAI3279241.
http://digitalcommons.fiu.edu/dissertations/AAI3279241

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