Saturday, June 2, 2007

Native American Health Care

Indian health care promoted
MISSOULA - American Indians will have better health care when they are able to provide the services themselves, the president of a large Alaska Native health care foundation said Thursday.

Doing so will allow Indians more control and reduce their dependence on the federal government, said Katherine Gottlieb, president and CEO of the Southcentral Foundation, which provides health care to more than 45,000 Alaska Natives and American Indians.

Health care also will improve when Indians "own" their own medical services, she said.

"We honor and respect our own," Gottlieb said. "Now that our care is in our own hands, we treat it with respect."

(MG) be assured, Native Americans do NOT receive comparable treatment that Anglo-Americans receive ... not all doctors treat all patients equally.

Gottlieb was one of the speakers at a Missoula health care
conference put on by Indian.

People's Action and the Montana/Wyoming Tribal Leaders Association. Health care providers, hospital and clinic administrators, tribal leaders, and academic and community leaders attended the gathering to discuss the state of Indian health care in Montana.

Montana's Indian population suffers higher rates of disease, death and infant mortality than other populations. But the Southcentral Foundation is turning similar statistics around in Alaska by focusing on prevention and wellness, Gottlieb and Dr. Ted Mala said.

(MG) On a stone in front of a church off of Foster Avenue in Chicago are painted words attributed to Albert Einstein to this effect: The physician of the future will not treat patients for their diseases but rather take an active hand in helping them to take control of their own health ... prevention, neo-natal care, nutrition, it begins before birth and is a life long process ... and how can the health of a nation's people not be a priority item homeland security?

"We're especially interested in prevention," said Mala, director of tribal relations and traditional healing at the foundation.

He said the foundation bases its treatment on traditional culture, including the use of traditional medicine.

The Southcentral Foundation has been around for 25 years. Before that, health care was handled by the federal Indian Health Service.

Gottlieb said health care has improved since Alaska's many tribes came together to run their own health care program in south-central Alaska, which includes Anchorage.

The foundation draws about 45 percent of its budget from IHS but controls how that money is spent, Gottlieb said. It has created a health care system that is responsive, culturally sensitive, proactive and more likely to promote independence over dependence, she said.

The foundation now has more than 1,200 employees and provides more than 65 medical and behavioral health services.

The client, working with doctors and other health care providers, dictates how treatment will progress, Gottlieb said.

"Our providers listen, and we tell them what we need," she said. "It's a conclusion reached by everyone involved."