Washington, D.C. – The Department of Health and Human Services has announced a $180,000 grant for the Tohono O’odham Nursing Care Authority through April of 2014 to develop a more efficient rural health network. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva hailed the announcement and said more needs to be done throughout Indian Country to improve access to quality health care, especially in rural areas.
According to the Indian Health Service, American Indians and Alaskan Natives are approximately three times more likely than the general population to die from diabetes. The mortality rate for tuberculosis is approximately six to one, and the ratio for death from alcoholism is more than six to one.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed in 2010 includes a reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA), which seeks to address health disparities in Native communities. Grijalva introduced an amendment to the House Republican repeal of the ACA in January that sought to maintain the IHCIA even if the rest of the law were eliminated. The House Rules Committee decided not to allow a vote on the amendment.
Health care access is a major issue for the Tohono O’odham Nation, which lies across a large portion of Southern Arizona. Many residents live in rural areas with little or no health infrastructure.
“Native health care has been ignored and underfunded for too long, which is why I’m so glad to see this grant get to some of the people who need it most,” Grijalva said. “This will bring some much-needed assistance not just to the medical professionals who keep families healthy, but to the children and families who often struggle with a lack of options.”