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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Indian Health Service Closing Native-White Gap

Today's political Rohrschach Test: read this post from the Daily Yonder's Mark Trahant on "The Progess in Native American Health," then consider whether government health care works or not.

Trahant says Native American life expectancy still lags the national average by over four years. But in 1974, the life-expectancy differential between American indigenous people and white folks was over twenty years. Infant mortality for native groups is higher than for whites, but native infant mortality has decreased 67% since the 1970s.

The CDC finds our indigenous folks "are more likely to have poorer health, unmet medical needs due to cost, diabetes, trouble hearing, activity limitations, and to have experienced feelings of psychological distress in the past 30 days." Native Americans also have "higher rates of risky behaviors, poorer health status and health conditions, and lower utilization of health services." Yet Indian Health Service has managed to improve access to health care and close the life-expectancy differential for this particularly challenging population.

Of local interest: even within Indian Health Service, regional factors appear to have a strong impact on health outcomes. For Native Americans born between 1999 and 2001, life expectancy ranges from a high of 77.3 in the California IHS region to a low of 66.8 in the Aberdeen IHS region. Same government health care program, but over ten years difference in life expectancy between California and South Dakota indigenous folks. Hypotheses, anyone?

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