Indian Health Care

1 January 2017

The term “Vulnerable Population” is defined as, populations or groups whose needs are not fully addressed by traditional service providers. These populations of people feel they cannot comfortably or safely access and use the standard resources offered in disaster preparedness, relief and recovery. According to statistics of vulnerable populations, American Indians are part of the vulnerable populations of the United States. This vulnerable population has had to face irreversible damages all their lives.

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Based on treaties, laws, presidential executive orders and numerous court decisions, the United States established federally governmental relationships with the American Indian and Alaskan Tribes through the Cherokee Nation V. Georgia case of 1831, It specifically addressed the relationship between tribes, states and the federal government and their consequences after their actions on these eventful times in history during the developmental stages of the United States of America.

It was out of this particular case and others as such that the guardian/ward relationship was created to form the Snyder Act of 1921 and the Indian Health Care Improvement Act of 1976 (“Indian health services,” June ). It provided legislative authority for congress to move funds into specified health care of and for the Indian People. Because there is still the existence in the untrue biased belief that American Indians and Alaska Natives are not citizens of their states of residence, they are therefore not eligible for state programs and benefits.

The fact of the matter is, American Indians and Alaska Natives are citizens of the United States of America and are eligible to participate in all public, private and state health programs available to the general population. Like any other American they are due and deserve better health care. However the continue to be overlooked and ignored. Like never before, it is of great importance for tribal leaders to continue to actively participate in policy making, decision making and advocating in policy, legislative, and budgetary planning for Indian Health Care.

Although, The “Government health care for American Indians, was rooted in the Constitution, it has been a long and bumpy road faced with many obstacles and red tape to receive medical attention. In fact, it wasn’t until 1975 that the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act integrated American Indians into Medicare and Medicaid and put tribes in charge of their own care. ”(Beam, 2009).

Indians f all tribes and income levels, continue to face higher disparities when compared to the general population as a whole in areas of life expectancy, education, health crisis such as diabetes, suicide levels, tuberculosis and alcoholism. Because of the lack of family and traditional cultural environments, Urban Indians are at a greater risk for serious mental health and substance abuse problems, suicidal rates and increased gang activities. Teen pregnancy and cases of abuse and neglect are high in comparison to other races.

Studies show the urban Indian population documents poor health status and reveal the lack of adequate health care services for the majority of families (“Indian health services,” Jan). Although the Indian Health Care services have progressed, substantial health disparities continue to exist and excel when compared to the general population. HIS implemented Health and Human Services priorities to be directed towards the accountability and provision of higher quality health services for the urban Indian population. To name a few changes the improvements in the collection process of clinical data were implemented.

Enhancements of the Indian Urban program patient record systems were progressed through the electronic technology systems. Although it has not been an easy path to take because of its respect for cultural beliefs, it’s blending of traditional practices with the modern medical models and emphasis on public health and community outreach activities have proven to be beneficial. What has been overlooked is the available places to seek medical attention are limited and must be a clinic or hospital specifically on tribal land.

To many, access to these areas is extremely hard, too far and limited with resources making it difficult to access medical attention all together. For whatever reason, we have failed our promise to them because we choose to look the other way and ignore their issues. There are a lot of factors that come to play as to why they are and continue to be labeled as a vulnerable population to no avail. In more details, Indians have higher alcohol induced mortality rates by 43. 0% than 7. 0% compared to all races put together.

Homicide by assault is at 11. 7% when compared to 6. 1% compared to all races put together. Infant Deaths is 8. 0% in Indians when compared to 6. 9% compared as a whole to the general public in all races put together. Pneumonia/Influenza for Indians is 27. 1% while the general population with all races put together was 20. 3%. Suicide levels in comparison were also high. Indians was 19. 8% and all races put together are at 10. 9% (“Indian health services,” Jan). Why are the challenges higher than that of the general population when put as a whole?

There are several factors one being the limitations of health care within the Indian Health Care programs such as the misappropriate actions in funds, inadequate health care in tribal contracts as their own Indians are to be seen by their own Indians regardless of qualifications or not as per failed poor policy making decisions. There is also the limitations of spaces available representing Indians, with only 33 hospitals across the nation, 59 health centers across the nation and 50 health stations and 34 urban Indian Health projects that provide services as a supplemental services and referrals.

Clearly they misrepresent the Indian population when according to the 2000 census indicated more than 4 million Americans were of American Indian and Alaska Native heritage (“Indian health services,” Jan). According the IHS, Indian Health Care Services, they currently suffer from inadequate funding and serious mismanagement’s problems, lack of oversight that has negatively impacted the access to the expected quality Indian Health Care Services that we, The United States of America legally stated in treaties and laws to serve them.

The Indian Health Care Services was formed in 1955 and has been operating within the United State Health and Human Services (“Indian health services,” June). We are responsible in providing medical and public health care services to all members of the federally recognized tribes and Alaskan tribes regardless of their tribes and incomes. But are we doing that at the fullest potential? What ways can we better serve the American Indians? According to statistics of vulnerable populations, American Indians are part of the vulnerable populations of the United States.

This vulnerable population has had to face irreversible damages all their lives. Because of it they lack resources and face huge health disparities in comparison to other cultures of the United States. Such diverse vulnerable groups are most often comprised of the person’s race, level of education, income level, and religion preferences. In relation to health care, barriers such as in the lack of family support, financial support and level of education has prevented them to receiving medical services, even at the very basic.

Huge financial impacts have been witnessed through the American Indians representing a vulnerable population that includes; age groups, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic and education level. By better equipping the areas without any limitations such as clauses that must me of Indian descendant or in a tribal area, clinics and providers can provide better care, we can do a greater good by teaching our patients on how to obtain their medications, health care, and counseling by various clinics and programs.

We, within the medical profession, are in front line in detecting the vulnerability of our patients. That includes all patients. Our patients allow us to know their most intimate aspect of their lives, because of the trust gain. As we build upon this trust, we must continue to stress the importance of their care addressing their special issues and unique circumstances.

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Indian Health Care. (2017, Jan 18). Retrieved February 24, 2019, from
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