In an effort to combat the major health issues plaguing American Indians, the University of Kansas Medical Center and the American Indian Health Research and Education Alliance announced plans to create a Center for American Indian Community Health, with help from a $7.5 million grant from the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities and the National Institutes of Health. This new Center is sure to bring some much-needed care to the American Indian community, through improving education, outreach, research, and community resources.
Compared to the U.S. population as a whole, American Indians are astronomically disproportionately affected by a number of diseases: they are 420% more likely to die from diabetes, they are 100% more likely to die from tobacco-related illnesses, they have the lowest screening rates for breast and colorectal cancer, and they have the lowest five-year cancer survival rate.
Researchers plan to use the grant money in their efforts to recruit American Indian high school and college students into the health sciences programs at University of Kansas. No American Indians had been enrolled in the programs until recently. Now, three students have graduated, five are enrolled, and several more should be matriculating. Outreach has also been performed at the Haskell Indian Nations University to find students who might be interested in the public health program.
Historically, American Indians have been very distrustful of outsiders, including medical care providers, after a tumultuous and tragedy-filled history since explorers first came to America. The hope is that these graduates will return to their communities to improve the quality of care and work toward eliminating health disparities.