Friends of Indian Health

The American Dental Association formed the Friends of Indian Health in 1997 to educate Congress on the disparity of disease and access to health care experienced by American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) and the urgent need to increase annual appropriations for the Indian Health Service (IHS).  At that time, the IHS budget was $2 billion and Congress repeatedly had noted in its annual appropriations bills that the allocated funds were not sufficiently meeting the needs of Indian people.

Recognizing that many health groups sounding the same message could be more powerful than individual groups voicing their own smaller concerns, the Friends came together to advocate for one total annual appropriation for the IHS.  Over the years, the group has met with Administration officials at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) who prepare the IHS budget,  lobbied the Congressional budget committees, testified before the appropriations committees, and worked with the Native American Congressional Caucus and the Coalition for Health Funding to increase IHS funding.  Since 1997, the IHS budget has continued to grow and its budget now exceeds $4 billion.

In addition to advocating for an increased annual appropriation for the IHS, the Friends also sought to emphasize issues that affected many of the IHS providers.  One of those was the need for adequate staff housing.  The lack of desirable housing was a disincentive for recruiting sufficient numbers of health care providers.  As a result of the Friends bringing this issue to the attention of Congress, the House urged the IHS to include staff housing plans when planning new or replacement facilities.

Over the years the Friends have urged Congress to fund programs that will have the most immediate and broadest impact on reducing disease rates and increasing access to health care for AI/ANs.  These proposals have included fully funding loan repayment for all health care providers, increasing the IHS director’s prevention fund, fully funding the Tribal Epidemiological Centers and updating the pay scale for health care support staff.  The Friends believe that these budget issues will have the most immediate impact for improving health care for Indian people.

In addition to the annual appropriations bill, the Friends has worked with tribal organizations to see that Congress establish and expand the diabetes initiative for AI/ANs.  The Friends was pleased that they were able to assist the tribal groups in making contact with Senators key to passage of this legislation. Since 1997, the Friends has grown from less than 20 members to over 50.

AIDS Action

American Academy of Child &Adolescent Psychiatry

American Academy of FamilyPhysicians

American Academy of Ophthalmology

American Academy of Pediatrics

American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

American Academy of Physicians Assistants

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

American Association of Colleges of Nursing

American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine

American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy

American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine

American Cancer Society

American College of Nurse-Midwives

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians

American College of Physicians

American Dental Association

American Dental Education Association

American Diabetes Association

American Dietetic Association

American Geriatrics Society

American Heart Association

American Hospital Association

American Medical Association

American Nurses Association

American Occupational Therapy Association

American Optometric Association

American Osteopathic Association

American Pharmacists Association

American Podiatric Medical Association

American Psychiatric Association

American Psychological Association

American Public Health Association

American Society of Addiction Medicine

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

American Telemedicine Association

Arizona Academy of Family Physicians

Association of American Indian Affairs

Association of Schools of Public Health

Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Helen Keller International

National Alaska Native American Indian Nurses Association

National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors

National Association of Local Boards of Health

National Kidney Foundation

National Rural Health Association

National Native American AIDS Prevention Center

George Blue Spruce, D.D.S., M.P.H.

Ward Robinson, M.D.

William Treviranus, D.O.

James Zuckerman, M.D., Harvard Medical School




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