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IHS Announces Strategic Initiative: Asthma Control in Tribal Communities

by Dr. Loretta Christensen, MBA, MSJ, FACS, IHS Chief Medical Officer

I am pleased to announce the release of the IHS Strategic Initiative – Asthma Control in Tribal communities, or ACT. As a clinical and public health priority in our vulnerable service population, IHS advocates a comprehensive strategy to reduce asthma-related morbidity and mortality among American Indian and Alaska Native people.

As part of this important strategic initiative, IHS will support federal, tribal and urban Indian organization programs as they:

  • ACT to increase asthma awareness;
  • ACT to recognize and diagnose asthma;
  • ACT to support asthma control; and
  • ACT to improve asthma-related outcomes.

Asthma is among the leading chronic health conditions in Indian Country across the age spectrum, especially among children and adolescents. American Indian and Alaska Native people suffer a higher prevalence of asthma than any other specific racial or ethnic group.

Chronic asthma can reduce quality of life and lead to serious illness and even death. Increased awareness, early diagnosis, mitigation of environmental risks and guideline-based quality medical management to support asthma control can reduce the burden of asthma-related disease in Indian Country.

It is important that all programs in the IHS system of care take appropriate action to reduce the adverse impacts of asthma in tribal communities. Success will require a proactive multi-disciplinary approach that includes leadership and clinical, public health and environmental health staff. We will continue to provide resources to support this strategic initiative in the coming weeks and months.

The IHS ACT webpage is now live and includes useful information such as a summary of the ACT Initiative, an easy one-touch Resource Toolbox with helpful public health, provider, and patient/community resources, as well as best practices from IHS sites.

Dr. Loretta Christensen, MBA, MSJ, FACS, IHS Chief Medical Officer

Dr. Loretta Christensen, MBA, MSJ, FACS, an enrolled member of the Navajo Tribe, serves as the chief medical officer of the Indian Health Service. As the chief medical officer, Dr. Christensen is IHS' lead expert on medical and public health topics, giving technical consultation and guidance to the IHS Office of the Director and IHS staff throughout the country on American Indian and Alaska Native health care policies and issues. She provides national leadership for clinical and community-based health programs of the agency, and serves as the primary liaison and advocate for IHS health professionals.