Sunday, March 2, 2008

Improving AI/AN Healthcare

On February 26th the Senate passed the “Indian Health Care Improvement Act” to help the Native American population find help for diabetes, chronic liver diseases, and other medical problems which can lead eventually to higher deaths and illness rates.

The key provisions of the Act would:

· Create a Indian Youth Telemental Health Demonstration Program
· Help Indian health professionals and expand the workforce
· Expand cancer screening
· Improve monitoring for infectious diseases
· Improve current diabetes screening
· Expand programs to prevent domestic violence
· Provides funds for construction and repair of facilities
· Provide funds for urban Indian youth treatment centers
· Protect privacy
· Encourage states to help Indians on or near reservations

Several sections in the Act (S 1200) refer to using telehealth technologies. Section #306 refers to Indian Health Care Delivery Demonstration Projects that includes provisions for providing urgent care services if necessary via telehealth. Section #708 refers to the Youth Telemental Health Demonstration Project that will test using telemental health services to prevent Indian youth suicides.

As for the IHS funding for FY 2009, the President’s budget request proposed $3.325 billion and prioritizes clinical and preventive healthcare services particularly in AI/AN communities on or near reservations. The budget requests an increase of $20 million over the IHS FY 2008 budget level to help operate hospitals and health clinics, and an increase of $2 million was requested for dental services with $2 million for preventive health services.

In addition, the FY 2009 budget requests $150 million for diabetes prevention and treatment grants. The IHS has awarded $850 million in grants over the past 6 years to over 300 tribes and Indian organizations to support diabetes prevention and disease management at the local level.

The budget proposal also asks for an increase of $9 million for a total of $588 million to use for contract health service funds. These funds would be used to purchase healthcare that the IHS cannot economically provide through their own network.

The Indian Health Service has announced plans to fund epidemiological development to help the AI/AN urban population in California. A competitive cooperative announcement published in the February 28th Federal Register (HHS-IHS—2008-EPI-0001) would help to establish a Tribal Epidemiology Center in California. Eventually, IHS intends to have Tribal Epidemiology Centers in all of the 12 IHS Administrative areas.
When the program is established, epidemiology activities at the TEC will include disease surveillance. In this capacity, the Center will be able to perform epidemiologic analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of surveillance data, investigate disease outbreaks, develop and implement epidemiologic studies, develop control and prevention programs, and work with other public health authorities.

Eligible applicants can be federally recognized Tribes, Tribal organizations and AI/AN populations. One award for FY 2008 will be made for $350,000. The application deadline is April 4, 2008 with the anticipated start date to be May 1, 2008 and to last until April 30, 2011.