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.
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