Disparities and inadequacies in Native American Healthcare has been the case for many decades. Health disparities consist of injustices of health care due to social disadvantages. Though there should not be any different health outcomes based on (Heritage/race) it is a problem that is facing the Native American communities. After all, we are all human beings who deserve to be treated equally.
However, this is not the case when it comes to our indigenous people. The Native American population tends to experience poorer health when it comes to other groups of people. There are various factors involved: cultural trauma, lack of access to high quality healthcare, poverty, and lack of funding for healthcare.
The Indian Health Service (IHS) Working Hard at Decreasing Disparities
The Indian Health Service (IHS) is a segment of the Department of Health and Human Services specifically offered to Native Americans and Alaska Natives. One of the agreements with the federal government was that federally recognized tribes have a right to healthcare. Even though IHS is working hard at making sure the tribes have equal access to healthcare, there is simply not enough funding.
Another disadvantage to having to be federally recognized is that there are only 574 federally recognized tribes, and many more tribes are seeking recognition. Because these tribes are not recognized they do not get the healthcare that they need.
The IHS only provides services to Natives living in or around the reservation. Because of that Native Americans who have relocated to larger cities do not get access to the services that IHS offers.
This is an unfortunate situation due to the fact that statistically Native Americans suffer more than other races of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and alcoholism. These lingering health disparities are slowly catching the attention of health care experts, policy makers, and tribal leaders.
Trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences
Disparities and inadequacies in Native American healthcare also have roots in generational trauma. The Indigenous people were forced through assimilation, genocide, and almost total elimination of their culture and people.
This intergenerational trauma has had a huge effect on the generations today. Settlers forcibly took control of the Indigenous peoples lands and forced them to lands that they were unfamiliar with. As expected this caused a lot of trauma being ripped away from the land that their ancestors had grown up on; lands that the Native Americans connected with the Creator and were able to provide food for their tribe.
Because of this trauma it has trickled down from generation to generation. It has caused health problems that would not be there if Native Americans were treated fairly. The rates of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and suicide rates are higher than other Americans.
Decreasing Native American Health Care Disparities
The reality is that the Native American community should be able to experience better health and greater access to high-quality health services today. Sure, there has been some progress made over the years, but not enough. Underfunding is still an issue, as well as lack of attention from policymakers and healthcare experts. For Native Americans to decrease such disparities, we need to focus on getting more medical personnel to the remote reservation locations, better transportation to and from hospitals and doctors, and better trust with each other. Together we can make the change that is needed to get Indigenous people the healthcare they deserve.