Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show disproportionate COVID-19 impact in American Indian and Alaska Native populations

Pictured: José T. Montero, MD, MHCDS, Director Center for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Support where he oversees support to the US health departments and those serving tribal nations and insular areas.(Photo: courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

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CDC provides more than $200 million to address COVID-19 health disparities in Indian Country

News Release

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new study that specifically examines how COVID-19 is affecting American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) – one of the racial and ethnic minority groups at highest risk from the disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in 23 selected states, the cumulative incidence of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases among American Indians and Alaska Natives was 3.5 times more than that of non-Hispanic whites.

These data also showed that American Indians and Alaska Natives who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 tended to be younger than white non-Hispanic individuals with COVID-19 infection. Compared to whites, a higher percentage of cases among American Indian and Alaska Native individuals were in people under 18 years of age (12.9 percent American Indian and Alaska Native; 4.3 percent white), and a smaller percentage of cases were among American Indians and Alaska Natives 65 years or older (12.6 percent American Indian and Alaska Native; 28.6 percent white). Limited data were available to quantify the disparity in COVID-19 incidence, COVID-19 disease severity, and outcomes among American Indian and Alaska Native persons compared with those among other racial/ethnic groups reinforcing the need to prioritize improved data collection as a key strategy to understand and improve health outcomes.

Recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies have shown that American Indians and Alaska Natives are among the racial and ethnic minority groups at higher risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes. Persisting racial inequity and historical trauma have contributed to disparities in health and socioeconomic factors between American Indian and Alaska Native and white populations that have adversely affected tribal communities. The elevated incidence within this population might also reflect differences in reliance on shared transportation, limited access to running water, household size, and other factors that might facilitate community transmission.

Funding to address COVID-19 disparities

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using a multifaceted approach, has provided more than $200 million in COVID-19 funding to Indian Country, which will support tribes and tribal organizations in carrying out COVID-19 preparedness and response activities, including surveillance, epidemiology, laboratory capacity, infection control, and mitigation.

“American Indian and Alaska Native people have suffered a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 illness during the pandemic,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D. “This funding approach will broaden access to COVID-19 resources across tribal communities.”

This Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding to date exceeds the $165 million directed by Congress through the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriation Act, 2020, and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or the CARES Act.

  • $750,000 through the Public Health Crisis Response cooperative agreement administered by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Center for Preparedness and Response to support COVID-19 incident management efforts in the Cherokee Nation (Oklahoma).

“Funding is only one step in addressing the impact of COVID-19 on tribal communities,” said José T. Montero, M.D., Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Center for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Support. “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is continuing to work on coordinated outreach to tribal nations through our Office of Tribal Affairs and Strategic Alliances and new Tribal Support Section to provide remote- and field-based support to our hardest hit tribal communities.”

To stop the spread of COVID-19 and move toward greater health equity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will continue to work with tribal nations to ensure resources are available to maintain and manage physical and mental health, including easy access to information, affordable testing, and medical and mental health care. For more information and resources for tribal communities, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/tribal/index.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s mission is to achieve health equity by eliminating health disparities and attaining optimal health for all Americans. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention addresses health equity through its programs, research, tools and resources, and leadership. For information on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s work toward reducing and eliminating health disparities to reach health equity visit https://www.cdc.gov/healthequity/index.html.

About the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention works 24/7 protecting America’s health, safety, and security. Whether diseases start at home or abroad, are curable or preventable, chronic or acute, or from human activity or deliberate attack, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention responds to America’s most pressing health threats. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is headquartered in Atlanta and has experts located throughout the United States and the world.

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(Image: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
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