The 2000 census indicated that more than 4 million Americans were of American Indian and Alaska Native heritage. American Indians and Alaska Natives die at higher rates than other Americans from tuberculosis (750% higher), alcoholism (550% higher), diabetes (190% higher), unintentional injuries (150% higher), homicide (100% higher) and suicide (70% higher). (Rates adjusted for misreporting of Indian race on state death certificates; 2002-2004 rates.) As a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the purpose of the IHS is to offset this disparity by providing health programs for Native Americans. The IHS has 12 Area Offices located throughout the continental United States and in Alaska.
The provision of health services to members of federally-recognized tribes grew out of the relationship between the federal government and Indian tribes that were established in 1787 from Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. This has been given form and substance by numerous treaties, laws, Supreme Court decisions, and Executive Orders. In 1921, the Snyder Act (42 Stat.208) (PDF), was passed by Congress to provide continuing authority for Federal Indian programs. The Snyder Act is the basic authorization for Federal health services to U.S. Indian Tribes. It identified the “relief of distress and conservation of health of Indians” as one of the Federal functions. In 1954, all functions of the Secretary of the Interior relating to the conservation of the health of Indians were transferred to the Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service. On July 1, 1955, about 2,500 health program personnel of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, along with 48 hospitals, 18 health centers, 62 stations, 13 school infirmaries, and other locations, came under the jurisdiction of the newly created Indian Health Service. One of the initial orders of business for the first Director of the IHS was to describe the health status of American Indians and Alaska Natives. A report entitled “Health Services for American Indians” was prepared by the Surgeon General of the USPHS and submitted to Congress on February 11, 1957. This report became known as the “1957 IHS Gold Book.” The Gold Book is recognized as a founding historical marker outlining the challenges that faced the newly formed IHS.
The IHS is meant to provide preventive, curative, and community health care to approximately 1.9 million of the nation’s 3.3 million American Indians and Alaska Natives. The IHS currently provides health services to approximately 1.5 million of these American Indians and Alaska Natives who belong to more than 557 federally recognized tribes in 35 states. IHS services are administered through a system of 12 Area offices and 163 IHS and tribally managed service units.
The enacted budget authority for the Indian Health Service (IHS), for fiscal year (FY) 2008 was $3.35 billion. This is a $166 million, or approximately 5.2 percent, increase over the FY 2007 enacted budget level.
Abortion funding Ban on American Indian Clinics
Genocide of Family Planning (by Beth A. Spencer, Inside Chico State)
Charles W. Grim
The former director of IHS, Charles W. Grim, a member of the Cherokee Nation, graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry in 1983. He was appointed Director of the Division of Oral Health for the Albuquerque Area of the IHS in 1992 and he eventually became the Interim Director in August 2002, appointed by President George W. Bush, and received confirmation as Acting Director in July 2003. After his four years of commitment at IHS, he withdrew from nomination for a second term in September 2007. Grim, told Indian Country Today that it was too difficult to commute between Oklahoma, where his family resides, and IHS headquarters in Washington, D.C.
A physician and professor who has dedicated her career to combating diabetes, Yvette Roudideaux is the first Native American woman to head the Indian Health Service since it was founded in 1955. She was sworn in May 12, 2009.