Native Americans Preparing for Healthier Health Services


“This is an exciting time for Indian health. We’re in the midst of a movement for national health care reform, as well as reform for the Indian health system,” said Kelle Little, the health and human services administrator for the Coquille Indian Tribe Health Center.

She explained that Indian Health Services — a government agency responsible for providing health services to American Indians — is on the cusp of change.

The object of the program is to teach members to embrace lifestyle changes that will help them reasonably lose weight, exercise more and eat healthier.

(AP Photo/Will Kincaid)Health Care's Forgotten

In this photo taken Oct. 14, 2008, Ron His Horse is Thunder, chairman of the Standing Rock tribe, talks about the Indian Health Service at Standing Rock Reservation Tribal Headquarters, Fort Yates. N.D. His Horse is Thunder says his remote reservation on the border between North Dakota and South Dakota can’t attract or maintain doctors who know what they are doing.

The Coquille Tribe joined a consortium with the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians and the Klamath Indian Tribes on diabetes prevention. The Diabetes Prevention program, which began in 2006, is funded by a grant from the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.

Little said it’s an important program for American Indians, who have a high rate of diabetes and related health problems.

The tribe is also working on childhood obesity with a project that provides pediatricians with materials and dietitian referrals.  “Obese children become obese adults,” Little said. “If we can treat or at least help families to manage the condition … when children are young, we’ll reduce the risk for chronic disease as adults and adolescents and improve their quality of life.”

The issue is near and dear to the tribe because Indian Country, as Little put it, has a high rate of obesity among its youth.

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