Support Indian Health Care Improvement Act Amendments, EPPN urges

January 18, 2008

The Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) is calling on Episcopalians to contact their United States Senators and urge them to support the Indian Health Care Improvement Act Amendments of 2007 (Senate Bill 1200) when it comes to the floor.

"Indigenous people are suffering and we are your neighbors," Janine Tinsley-Roe, the Episcopal Church's national missioner for Native American Ministries, said in an EPPN alert, which is emailed to more than 21,000 Episcopalians and religious advocates. "We live and love every bit of this country but have been historically neglected by our 'caregivers' on the local, state and especially federal levels. We need our elected officials to advocate for us and to ensure Indigenous people the resources we need to thrive. The time for justice in our health-care crisis is now."

The EPPN alert noted that Native American infant mortality is 150% greater for Indians than for Caucasian infants. Indigenous people are 650% more likely to die from tuberculosis and 318% more likely to die from diabetes compared with other groups.

"These tragic statistics should embarrass our federal government who promised Native Americans health care in exchange for 400 million acres of land treaties," the alert said.

Since its enactment in 1976, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act has funded programs to address the health care needs of Native Americans and Alaskan Natives. However, huge disparities remain, and many of the innovations in health care delivery that most Americans have experienced in recent years have not reached Indian Country, according to the alert.

The Episcopal Church has long supported Native Communities and their right to access adequate health care, the alert said.

The Senate is due consider Senate Bill 1200 next week to improve access, retain qualified Indian health care professionals, focus on alcohol/substance abuse, improve services and mental health care for Indians and give more decision-making authority to tribal governments to serve Indian populations more effectively.

Furtehr information about the Episcopal Public Policy Network is available here.