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Indian Health Service Response to COVID-19

In a new policy brief, America’s Essential Hospitals outlines the unprecedented challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has posed to American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) populations.

These communities have been hit particularly hard by the public health crisis, as they are at high risk of complications from the virus due to underlying disparities in health, social, and economic factors. A recent Government Accountability Office blog post highlights factors that might contribute to the higher number of infections among these populations.

Within the Department of Health and Human Services, the Indian Health Service (IHS) is responsible for providing health services to AIAN people. IHS has collaborated with tribal leaders and state and local public health officials for a coordinated response to the outbreak. Through COVID-19 stimulus legislation, Congress appropriated resources to support IHS’ efforts to mitigate the outbreak, such as ensuring access to testing and treatment for AIAN patients and funding for tribal providers.

The brief outlines the impact of COVID-19 on AIAN populations, funding for IHS response efforts, and ways tribal providers have tried to mitigate the pandemic.

Policy Brief – Indian Health Service Response to COVID-19

Key Takeaways:

  • American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIAN) are at greater risk of developing serious complications from COVID-19 due to underlying socioeconomic factors and other disparities.
  • To date, Congress has appropriated more than $2 billion to support the tribal response to the pandemic through recently enacted stimulus legislation.
  • Funding for Indian Health Service providers is intended to support the prevention, preparation, and response to the outbreak in AIAN communities.

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