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Sen. Murkowski Raises Awareness of Alaska Native Health Disparities

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Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, recently commemorated “Minority Health Awareness,” a resolution to address health disparities faced by minorities at disproportionate rates as well as a lack of access to health care. The resolution, put forward by Senator Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, passed the Senate unanimously, stated a May 18 news release.

“Alaska Natives, and many minorities nationwide, suffer health problems at an alarmingly high rate,” said Murkowski, the lead Republican co-sponsor on the resolution. “There are many reasons and many factors at play--but the first step to fixing the problem, simply, is spotlighting the problem through information.”

Sen. Murkowski's news release highlighted the health issues afflicting American Indians and Alaska Natives, who have a life expectancy 5.2 years less than the national average. The Department of Health and Human Services lists the five most fatal diseases and health problems among American Indians and Alaska Natives as heart disease, malignant neoplasm, unintentional injuries, diabetes and stroke.

“Compared to most American communities, heart disease, diabetes, tuberculosis and alcoholism are rampant in Alaska Native and American Indian populations,” Murkowski said. “And by this resolution my colleagues and I are saying ‘It doesn’t have to be this way.’ There’s no reason for a man in Shaktoolik or a woman in Selawik to have worse odds of a long, healthy life than the average American.”