10 Nov Dear Congress: Prioritize Health Equity During Native American Heritage Month
Native Americans have a long history of resilience, but they have also been subjected to centuries of oppression and marginalization. These experiences have had a profound impact on their health and well-being.
Today, Native Americans experience significant health disparities compared to other racial and ethnic groups in the United States. There are several factors contributing to these inequalities including:
- Historical trauma: Native Americans have experienced a long history of trauma, including forced assimilation and cultural loss. This trauma has ongoing negative impacts on Native American populations mental and physical health.
- Poverty: With more than one in four Indians living in poverty today, Native Americans are the poorest ethnic group in the United States. Poverty often leads to a lack of access to healthy food, safe housing, and quality healthcare.
- Social determinants of health: Social determinants of health, such as education, employment, and social support, can also have a significant impact on health. Native Americans are more likely to experience disadvantages in all of these areas.
Health outcomes for Native Americans are adversely impacted by these factors. By any measure, health care for Native Americans is lagging behind other communities and subjecting Indian populations to high rates of preventable illnesses. The impact of current health disparities is evident in a number of areas, including:
- Life expectancy: Native Americans have a lower life expectancy than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States.
- Infant mortality: Native American infants are twice as likely to die before their first birthday as white infants.
- Chronic diseases: Native Americans are more likely to have chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
- Mental health: Native Americans are at increased risk for mental health problems such as depression and substance abuse.
To address these disparities, there are several steps that can be taken.
- Investing in tribal healthcare: Even though the federal government is responsible for providing healthcare for all Native Americans, the healthcare system remains vastly underfunded. The federal government should increase funding for tribal healthcare programs. This will help to ensure that Native Americans have access to quality healthcare
- Addressing social determinants of health: The government should also invest in programs that address social determinants of health, such as education, employment, and housing. Adopting a holistic approach to health and wellbeing, rather than just services, can have significant benefits.
- Promoting cultural understanding: It is important to promote cultural understanding between Native Americans and healthcare providers. This will help to ensure that healthcare is culturally competent and sensitive to the needs of Native Americans.
Native American Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures of Native Americans. It is also a time to acknowledge the ongoing challenges they face, including health disparities.
Policymakers and healthcare stakeholders must commit to achieving health equity for Native Americans. This starts by addressing the root causes of health disparities and ensuring that all Native Americans have access to quality healthcare.