Uninsured Native Americans

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According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, the American Indian and Alaska Native population make up about 2 percent of the total United States population. This constitutes approximately 6.2 million people who meet the classification. Their demographic classification would be comprised of those who have origin from North, South and Central America with some sort of tribal affiliation. A tribe is defined as any aggregate of people united by ties of a common ancestor, community of customs and traditions. The traditions of the American Indian and Alaska Native population are deep rooted in their culture. They have many customs that they abide by currently amongst their tribes. In regards to medicine, the American Native tribes revert to their medicine man, who is like a priest. The priest or Maya Shaman performs rituals of healing for those sickened with disease or injury. Because many native tribes still resort to medicine main rituals for health care purposes, this population within our country has high disease rate and are mainly uninsured. Their customary traditions make it hard for monitoring them for proper immunization and infectious disease. Despite having a small percentage of the American Indians and Alaskan Natives living on reservations, less than 30 percent, it is probably safe to assume none have private health insurance. In an effort to improve overall health care, prevent the spread of disease and continue research on ways to treat disease, the government had to find a means to assist this uninsured population. The federal government provides free health care services to those tribes and the rest of their population living in modern society through a federally funded program Indian Health Services (IHS), United States Department of Health and Human Services. According to Indian Health Services, “the American Indian and Alaskan Native people have long experienced lower health status when compared with other Americans.” (Indian Health Service, 2011) Because of their beliefs that keep them from seeking modern medicine, their accessibility to it and their inconsistency in visiting physicians, it is hard to provide adequate health care and keep the spread of disease down within this population. Aside from their cultural differences and accessibility, the education regarding health care issues is very poor amongst the natives. The health care views of the Native American Indian and Alaskan Native people are the major reason the majority are uninsured. These populations that live in rural areas and follow strict traditions aren’t seeking out health care. The tribal leaders don’t readily trust the American government because of the history in this country where they have felt pushed aside, forgotten and desecrated. In order for the government to assist in preventing the spread of disease, they had to pass laws to help form allegiance with tribal leaders. In 1975, the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA). This act gives tribe roles in seeking out and making decisions about the health care provided by the program. Also the program established programs and provides education on health care issues faced by the population. By educating the Indian and Alaskan Native population, they are equipped with a better understanding of how their isolated life style puts them at greater risk for specific disease. According to the Office of Minority Health, 77 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives ages 25 and over have at least a high school diploma in 2010 which is almost 30 percent less than that of non-Hispanic Whites. The lack of education obtained by this population is greatly attributed to their cultural beliefs of self sustainment and isolation of living on reservations. They aren’t aware of the benefits of healthy eating, vitamin supplements and diet and exercise. They aren’t educated on the side effects of alcohol abuse or...