Tribes discuss healthcare at White House summit

Published: Nov. 17, 2021 at 5:48 PM CST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - The White House hosted the first summit of tribal nations since 2016.

A big topic of discussion at the summit was healthcare.

The Biden administration is taking steps to strengthen relations between the United States and Indigenous tribes. Earlier this week, President Joe Biden said tribal lands have been continually underfunded by the federal government.

One of the areas of inadequate funding is Native healthcare, an issue that Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board CEO Jerilyn Church says needs to be addressed in the future.

“We’re hoping that what comes from this, is an understanding of the unique challenges of providing healthcare in rural and frontier areas, such as our reservations across the great plains,” Church said.

While COVID-19 affected everyone, it affected Native reservations particularly hard, and tribal governments say that there are lessons to be learned from the pandemic.

Church said that the biggest issues tribal healthcare providers face now are vaccine hesitancy and fighting disinformation.

“A lot of folks think the vaccine only came about when COVID hit our nation when actually, the vaccine had been researched years before that, leading up to its development.”

Church said that Indian Health Services prioritized getting the vaccine to places where it was difficult to get.

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