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Goal 1

Goal 1: To ensure that comprehensive, culturally appropriate personal and public health services are available and accessible to American Indian and Alaska Native people.

Goal Explanation: The IHS provides comprehensive primary health care and public health services, which are critical to improving the health of AI/AN people. The Indian health care system delivers care through health care services provided in IHS, Tribal, and Urban (I/T/U) health facilities (e.g., hospitals and clinics) and by supporting the purchase of essential health care services not available in IHS and Tribal health care facilities, known as the Purchased/Referred Care (PRC) program. Additional services include environmental health improvements, as well as traditional healing practices and services to complement the medical, dental, pharmacy, laboratory, behavioral health, and other primary care medical programs. Expanding access to these services in AI/AN communities is essential to improving the health status of the AI/AN population. This goal includes securing the needed workforce, strengthening collaboration with a range of public and private organizations, as well as Tribal, and urban Indian providers, and expanding access to quality health care services to promote the health needs of AI/AN communities.

Objective 1.1: Recruit, develop, and retain a dedicated, competent, and caring workforce.

Objective Explanation: Consistent, skilled, and well-trained leadership is essential to recruiting and retaining well-qualified health care professionals and administrative professionals. Attracting, developing, and retaining needed staff will require streamlining hiring practices and other resources that optimize health care outcomes. Within the Indian health care system, staff development through orientation, job experience, mentoring, and short- and long-term training and education opportunities are essential for maintaining and expanding quality services and maintaining accreditation of facilities. Also, continuing education and training opportunities are necessary to increase the skill sets and knowledge of employees, which enables them to keep pace in rapidly evolving areas of medical science, prevention science, improvement science, and information technology, as well as to increase opportunities for employee career advancement and/or to maintain necessary professional credentialing and accreditation.

Strategies – The following strategies support this objective:

Health Care Recruitment and Retention:

  1. Improve and innovate a process that increases recruitment and retention of talented, motivated, culturally knowledgeable, and competent workers, including through partnerships with AI/AN communities and others.
  2. Continue and expand the utilization of the IHS and Health Resources and Services Administration’s National Health Service Corps scholarship and loan repayment programs, as authorized by law, to increase health care providers at I/T/U facilities.
  3. Support IHS sponsorship of fellowship slots in certain specialized leadership programs for recruitment of future clinical and administrative leaders.
  4. Evaluate new organizational structure options and reporting relationships to improve oversight of the Indian Health Professions program.
  5. Expand the use of paraprofessionals, Advanced Practice Nurses, and Physician Assistants to increase the workforce and provide needed services.
  6. Develop training programs in partnership with health professional schools and training hospitals and expand opportunities to educate and mentor AI/AN youth interested in obtaining health science degrees.
  7. Enhance and streamline IHS human resources infrastructure to hire well-qualified personnel.

Staff Capacity Building:

  1. Strengthen the workforce to improve access to, and quality of, services.
  2. Improve leadership skills, adopt a consistent leadership model, and develop mentoring programs.
  3. Improve continuity processes and knowledge sharing of critical employee, administrative, and operational functions through written communications and documentation within the IHS.
  4. Improve workplace organizational climate with staff development addressing teamwork, communication, and equity.
  5. Strengthen employee performance and responsiveness to IHS, Tribes, urban Indian organizations (UIOs), and patients by improving employee orientation and opportunities for training, Graduate Medical Education programs, and other educational offerings, including customer service skills and cultural competency.

Objective 1.2: Build, strengthen, and sustain collaborative relationships.

Objective Explanation: Collaboration fostered through an environment that values partnership is vital to expanding the types of services to improve population health outcomes that can be achieved within the Indian health care system. These relationships include those between Tribes, UIOs, states, communities, federal agencies, not-for-profit organizations, universities/schools, foundations, private industry, as well as internal cooperation within the agency and collaborative project management.

Strategies – The following strategies support this objective:

Enhancing Collaboration:

  1. Collaborate with Tribes and UIOs in the development of community-based health programs, including health promotion and disease prevention programs and interventions that will increase access to quality health programs.
  2. Develop a community feedback system/program where community members can provide suggestions regarding services required and received.
  3. Support cross-collaboration and partnerships among I/T/U stakeholders.

Service Expansion:

  1. Promote collaborations among the IHS, federal agencies, Tribes, Tribal organizations, UIOs, and states to expand services, streamline functions and funding, and advance health care goals and initiatives.
  2. Work with community partners to develop new programs responsive to local needs.

Objective 1.3: Increase access to quality health care services.

Objective Explanation: Expanded access to health care services, including individual and community health services, requires using many approaches. Greater access is critical to improving the health of AI/AN people and reducing risk factors contributing to the leading causes of death. Among the needs identified are increased prevention, specialty care, innovative use of health care providers, traditional medicine, long-term and aftercare services (which may require advancing holistic and culturally centered population health models), and expanded facilities and locations. To assess the success of these efforts, measures are needed to evaluate provider productivity, patient satisfaction, and align improvements in support operations (e.g., human resources, contracting, technology) to optimize access to quality health care services.

Strategies – The following strategies support this objective:

Health Care Service Access Expansion:

  1. Develop and support a system to increase access to preventive care services and quality health care in Indian Country.
  2. Develop and expand programs in locations where AI/AN people have no access to quality health care services.
  3. Overcome or mitigate challenges and enhance partnerships across programs and agencies by identifying, prioritizing, and reducing access limitations to health care for local AI/AN stakeholders.
  4. Increase access to quality community, direct, specialty, long-term care and support services, and referred health care services and identify barriers to care for AI/AN communities.
  5. Leverage technologies such as telemedicine and asynchronous electronic consultation systems to include a more diverse array of specialties and to expand, standardize, and increase access to health care through telemedicine.
  6. Improve team effectiveness in the care setting to optimize patient flow and efficiency of care delivery.
  7. Reduce health disparities in the AI/AN population.
  8. Provide evidence-based specialty and preventive care that reduces the incidence of the leading causes of death for the AI/AN population.
  9. Incorporate traditional cultural practices in existing health and wellness programs.
  10. Improve the ability to account for complexity of care for each patient to gauge provider productivity more accurately.
  11. Hold staff and management accountable to outcomes and customer service through satisfaction surveys.
  12. In consultation with Tribes, modernize health care facilities and staff quarters to expand access to quality health care services.
  13. In consultation with Tribes, review and incorporate a resource allocation structure to ensure equity among Tribes.
  14. Develop and coordinate environmental engineering, environmental health, and health facilities engineering services to provide effective and efficient public health services and enable response, recovery, and mitigation to disasters and public health emergencies.