“This year, Tribes welcomed a new Administration that has shown its commitment to Indian Country and respect for the treaty and trust obligations to Tribal nations. Because of the Biden Administration’s positive vision for Native health, the National Indian Health Board ramped up its efforts to build a stronger future for Indian health in a changing world,” said NIHB Chair William “Bill” Smith who is also the Vice President of the Valdez Native Tribe of Alaska and a Vietnam veteran. “NIHB worked with Tribes to create a roadmap to Indian health priorities for the Biden Administration and shared a legislative and policy agenda with Congress and federal agencies to outline the systemic changes Tribes want to see in our communities. We are calling on the Administration and IHS to modernize health information technology with Tribal engagement, provide full funding for IHS, invest in building a viable public health system in Indian Country and closing the gaps in veterans' health. The pandemic highlighted the many disparities in Tribal communities, but also brought about change.”
In addition to strengthening telehealth services in rural communities and assuring the Indian Health Care Improvement Act is safe, the HHS Deputy Secretary Andrea Palm thanked Tribes for their leadership and swift responses to test and vaccinate Tribal citizens against COVID-19, stating that the Tribal response serves as a model for the rest of the country and a blueprint for the Biden Administration.
“Beating Covid requires shots in arms and American Indian and Alaska Natives have the highest vaccination rates in the U.S. today. That’s a major accomplishment,” said Deputy Secretary Palm. “I want to commit to continue to be an advocate for Indian Country and ensure that all at HHS prioritize Tribes. We know there are long standing health issues in Tribal communities that didn’t just happen. We are committed to the access of quality healthcare, health equity and addressing gaps in Indian health. Build Back Better means no one gets left behind.”
In a video message, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky said, that CDC is committed to standing in partnership with Tribal nations against COVID-19 and has deployed hundreds of CDC field officials to Tribal communities to help with vaccine implementation efforts.
IHS Acting Director Elizabeth Fowler provided an update that included the agency’s vast COVID-19 vaccine efforts for the approximately 2.6 million American Indians and Alaska Natives who receive care through IHS hospitals, clinics and other facilities across the country.
“I’m honored to join a distinguished group of speakers for the National Indian Health Board’s National Tribal Health Conference,” said IHS Acting Director Elizabeth Fowler. “These meetings are important as we work in partnership with Tribes and Tribal and urban organizations to address a number of health issues in our tribal communities, including our collective response to COVID-19. Our fight to end COVID-19 will not stop until Indian Country reaches community immunity.”