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Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Our Community Health Representatives 1968-2018 – Standing Tall for 50 Years

by Georgianna Old Elk, IHS Community Health Representative Program Lead

This year commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Indian Health Service Community Health Representatives Program.  This milestone celebrated the tremendous strides Community Health Representatives have made in bridging the cultural, language, and systems gaps between native people and health resources since 1968. 

Community Health Representatives are frontline public health workers who are trusted members of the community with a close understanding of the community, language, and traditions.  They are well-trained health care workers that connect tribal members to their local health care system and assist by increasing the health knowledge of patients and communities through education, transportation to health visits, outreach, community education, informal counseling, social support, and advocacy to prevent avoidable hospital readmissions and emergency department visits. 

Today, more than 95 percent of the Community Health Representatives Program is directly operated by tribes through Title I contracts and Title V compacts authorized by the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, serving as the largest tribally contracted and compacted program. There are more than 1,600 Community Health Representatives in total, representing over 250 tribes across the U.S.

The goal of the Community Health Representatives Program is to provide quality health care services to American Indians and Alaska Natives within their communities through the use of well-trained, paraprofessional health care workers. Community Health Representatives are a critical part of the Indian health system and are essential to providing services to our remote and rural communities.

Fifty years later, Community Health Representatives continue advocating and providing social, spiritual, and physical support to the communities they serve and deserve to be acknowledged for their extraordinary contributions.  For the month of December, follow IHS on Facebook Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving  and Twitter Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving  as Community Health Representatives are highlighted for their work and contributions to Indian country.


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Georgianna Old Elk, IHS Community Health Representative Program Lead
Georgianna Old Elk is an enrolled member of the Ft. Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of Montana. She serves as the lead for the Community Health Representatives Program in the Division of Behavioral Health at the Indian Health Service Headquarters. Georgianna has over 30 years of Federal service and has worked at all organizational levels within the IHS.