Additional Preventive Health Areas
Access to Healthcare
American Indian and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) face multiple challenges in accessing care, including lack of financial resources, transportation limitations, and remoteness of communities. AI/AN communities and IHS are working to meet these challenges through programs such as telemedicine and mobile mammography.
Despite a fall in mortality rates of the general U.S. population, the incidence of cardiovascular disease in AI/AN appears to be increasing significantly, approaching rates almost twice that of the overall population. Age-adjusted death rates for cerebrovascular disease are declining more rapidly in the general U.S. population than in AI/ANs, whose rates are approximately 5% higher. With increasing rates of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and coronary artery disease, there is concern that we may see an increase in stroke rates over the next several decades. Although secondary and tertiary preventative activities have shown to be beneficial and require significant expansion and increased scope, primary prevention activities related to these and other chronic diseases should focus on encouraging lifestyle modification within AI/AN communities, especially youth. NIH's National Heart Lung and Blood Institute has downloadable documents and information for AI/AN populations.
Environmental quality refers to the condition of the environmental elements: air, water, and land. Environmental health refers to those aspects of human disease and injury that are determined or influenced by factors in the environment. The Office of Environmental Health and Engineering (OEHE) improves the environmental quality of the AI/AN people through injury and disease prevention. The OEHE includes the Sanitation Facilities Construction Program, which supports safe water, wastewater, and solid waste systems, and related support facilities, and the Environmental Health Services Program, which seeks to enhance AI/AN community capacity to develop and manage comprehensive environmental health programs at the local level.
Immunizations are one of the most effective disease-prevention tools available today. Thanks to routine immunization of children, the U.S. has seen a dramatic decrease in a number of vaccine-preventable diseases that used to cause significant illness and even death. Basic information on immunizations and anwers to common questions are available on the CDC Vaccinations and Immunizations information page.
Domestic and Other Violence and Injury
Positive mental and emotional health is crucial for the well being of AI/AN individuals and their communities. IHS works with AI/AN communities to provide clinical and preventive services to address the full range of mental health and social problems such as depression and suicide; traumatic life circumstances including child abuse, neglect and domestic violence; and co-occurring disorders including physical disorders, addiction, and behavioral health. Using the latest tools in clinical practice and traditional approaches that span generations, IHS mental health programs are dedicated to providing culturally innovative healing and prevention services to all AI/AN communities.
Oral diseases continue to be a significant health problem in the AI/AN population. The three biggest problems facing the IHS Oral Health Program and the people it serves are high dental disease rates, poor access to dental care, and severe dental health workforce shortages. For tips on improving and promoting dental health, visit the National Library of Medicine's (NLM) MedlinePlus Dental Health pages.
The Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program, part of the Division of Behavioral Health, works to reduce and eliminate alcoholism and other drug dependencies, as well as the associated pain they bring to individuals of all ages, families, villages, communities, and tribes. It provides support and resources for AI/AN communities to achieve excellence in holistic alcohol and drug dependency treatments, rehabilitation, and prevention services for individuals and their families.
The Traditional Medicine Initiative emphasizes the alliance of traditional and western medical practices between community traditional healers and IHS health care providers. Through this initiative, the agency seeks to foster formal relationships between local service units and traditional healers so that cultural values, beliefs, and traditional healing practices are respected and affirmed by IHS as an integral component of the healing process. The NLM offers a resource page with links to information on Traditional Healing.