The future of Indian health care requires coordinated intervention of health care services, educational systems, and economic development programs. Critical to this effort are collaborations and partnerships among tribal nations, urban Indian health organizations, academic medical centers, foundations, businesses, professional organizations, and federal agencies and programs.
The Indian Health Service (IHS) cannot improve the health status of American Indian and Alaska Native people without mutually beneficial partnerships. The belief that improvements in health services alone will mean improvements in overall health status is not reasonable. Improvements must take place in all areas that contribute to quality of life, including educational achievement, employment opportunities, and economic development.
Just as the underlying premise that responsibility for health care for American Indians and Alaska Natives must include all Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies and programs, there is also recognition that other federal agencies have a shared responsibility for improving health and programs that impact on the entire quality of life issues.
In recent years, the IHS has moved from a position of control and direction to one of partnership and consultation with the communities it serves. The IHS has established a working partnership with members of local communities who are most knowledgeable of the daily challenges of Indian health care, as well as with tribal governments and organizations, to establish a collaborative decision-making process. The solidifying and strengthening of these partnerships is one of IHS's greatest management achievements over the years. These achievements in the health arena can be expanded through similar efforts in the academic and business arenas.
Collaborations have been established with all HHS agencies, as well as with other government agencies, including with the Departments of Interior, Justice, Veterans Affairs, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Collaborations with non-governmental organizations include the National Congress of American Indians and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, and the American Academy of Ophthalmology, as well as various other universities and many health, medical, and local organizations across the country. All of these myriad partnerships have been established to complement health programs and to examine how improvements in education, law enforcement, business practices, and employment can have positive effects on health status. The IHS also shares public health strategic approaches and best practices with other countries and their respective indigenous populations, including Canada, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand.
The continued success of collaborations is dependent upon the embracing of the principle that responsibility for the provision of health care for Indian people is a shared responsibility within all of HHS, with IHS serving as the lead agency for advocating and assisting other HHS agencies in this activity.
For referral to the appropriate spokesperson, contact the IHS Public Affairs Staff at 301-443-3593.
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