Idaho senator wants to make American Indian health a top priority
By Whitney Lindstrom
Idaho Senator Mike Crapo highlights American Indian health concerns as new director of Indian Health Services prepares to take office.
On Wednesday, April 22, 2009, Idaho Senator Mike Crapo met with Dr. Yvette Roubideaux who was nominated in March by President Obama to be the new director of Indian Health Services (IHS). Senator Crapo, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, outlined his concerns about the health of American Indian tribes in the state of Idaho.
According to the 2007 United States Census Bureau, there are approximately 4.5 million American Indians residing in the United States. Idaho is home to nine different tribes. Senator Crapo relayed evidence to Dr. Roubideaux that he gathered during his recent health care forums in Idaho, where he heard testimony from health care professionals and representatives from various tribal councils.
“The statistics on tribal health in Idaho were sobering,” said Senator Crapo in a news release issued by his office.
Julia Davis-Wheeler, Vice Chairman of the Nez-Perce Tribal Executive Committee, highlighted some alarming statistics during these health care forums. Included in her remarks were statistics such as the mortality rate for tribal members under 25 years of age, which is 14 percent, more than three times the national average.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of death among American Indians is heart disease, which American Indian adults are 1.2 times more likely than white adults to have. American Indians are also at high risk for cancer, diabetes and stroke. Chronic diabetes rates on American Indian reservations are three to seven times the national average.
American Indians also have a high prevalence for mental health problems and substance abuse, according to the Office of Minority Health.
Some issues that prevent American Indians from receiving quality medical care are cultural barriers, geographic isolation, inadequate sewage disposal and low income. Additionally, because many receive health insurance through (IHS), they have less accessibility to hospitals and clinics implanted by tribal health programs. IHS services spend an average of $1,600 annually per person on healthcare, compared with the average $8,000 per person that moneynews.com projects will be spent on healthcare for Americans this year by the federal government.
Senator Crapo believes that the nomination of Dr. Roubideaux will help to make tribal health concerns in Idaho a top priority.
“Health care reform in this country must include additional attention on the Indian Health Services”, said Senator Crapo. “Dr. Roubideaux as the director of Indian Health Service and former Idaho Attorney General Larry Echohawk as director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs would bring valuable experience to the table for tribal members.”