Missions and Goals
The mission of the Indian Health Service is to ensure equity, availability and accessibility of a comprehensive high quality health care delivery system providing maximum involvement of American Indians and Alaska Natives in defining their health needs, setting health priorities for their local areas, and managing and controlling their health programs.
The goal of the Indian Health Service is to elevate the health status of American Indians and Alaskan Natives to the highest possible level. It is the goal of the IHS Eye Care Program to provide the highest possible level of eye care for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Further, it is the goal of IHS that this Eye Care Program be available to each IHS Service Unit and tribally operated facility.
Scope of Services
The IHS provides curative, preventive, and rehabilitative services through hospitals, health centers and clinics located in primarily rural locations on or near reservations. To the maximum extent possible within the resources available, the IHS will make available an organized and on-going eye care program including the following: ocular health promotion activities, general and specialty examinations, treatments and procedures, required prescription ophthalmic devices and associated dispensing services, and ophthalmic surgery.
Health care for approximately 1.4 million American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) from over 557 federally recognized tribes are provided by either the Indian Health Service or by the individual tribes. The Indian Health Service (IHS) is an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) currently providing health care to 70% of the federally recognized tribes with approximately 30% of the tribes providing their own health care.
The majority of health care facilities are located in predominantly rural settings on reservations throughout 35 states primarily in the western United States including Alaska. Approximately 140 optometrists, in both tribal and IHS programs provide optometric care working within a multidisciplinary health team where a true peer relationship exists.
Indian Health Service optometrists practice a challenging scope of optometric care. Optometrists are credentialed at a level commensurate with their training and experience, and are normally a full voting member of the medical staff. Emphasis is on primary care, diagnosis and treatment of ocular disease, and population based public health programs. In some locations, where resources allow, contact lens and low vision services are provided.
As part of the health care team in a hospital or clinic setting, optometrists have access to the entire patient record including laboratory results, immunization status, past medical history, current findings and medications, etc., and are able to fully assess the relationship between the patients' general health status and their ocular conditions. Consultation with physicians, pharmacists, nutritionists, and other disciplines are a routine part of IHS optometric practice. In-house laboratory, radiological, and pharmacy services are available for the optometrists use.
The unique cultural experience of working with various Indian Tribes in some of the most scenic geographical locations in the nation, combined with the ability to practice in a professional setting provide an exciting and challenging experience.