News Release

National Indian Health Board

During October 5th's opening plenary session of the National Indian Health Board (NIHB) annual National Tribal Health Conference (NTHC) representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Indian Health Service (IHS) shared with a virtual audience of nearly 600 conference attendees that each U.S. Department of Health and Human Services division is dedicated to working with tribes through meaningful consultation to bring adequate funding, quality healthcare and COVID-19 resources to American Indian and Alaska Native communities. 

“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 National Indian Health Board Chair William “Bill” Smith who is also the Vice President of the Valdez Native Tribe of Alaska and a Vietnam veteran. “National Indian Health Board 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 Indian Health Service to modernize health information technology with tribal engagement, provide full funding for Indian Health Service, 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 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 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 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 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 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is committed to standing in partnership with tribal nations against COVID-19 and has deployed hundreds of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention field officials to tribal communities to help with vaccine implementation efforts. 

Indian Health Service 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 Indian Health Service 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 Indian Health Service 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.” 

National Indian Health Board’s annual National Tribal Health Conference continued on October 6 with another plenary session featuring remarks from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Rural Health Council Co-Chair Darci Graves and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Tribal leaders and health experts lead a discussion on pressing topics related to Medicaid services and the American Indian and Alaska Native population. See the full conference agenda at: Conference Agenda - 2021 National Tribal Health Conference (cvent.com).

Read the pre-conference (October 4) press release here and watch the federal listening sessions on National Indian Health Board's YouTube channel

Social media information:

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Twitter: @NIHB1

Instagram: @NIHB1

Hashtags: #NIHB #NTHC2021 #Nativehealth #healthytribalcommunities #IndianCountry #ActofLove 

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National Tribal Health Conference, October 4-8, 2021 - banner graphic

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Tribal leaders, health advocates press federal agencies on funding, program services in Indian Country