Of the 15 leading causes of death in America, according to a study by the Indian Health Service, the only one in which death rates for Native Americans is lower than the national average is Alzheimer’s Disease, which is almost always a condition that strikes in old age.
Too many Native Americans simply don’t live to an old age. In some states, Montana is one, on average Native Americans die roughly 20 years younger than average Americans.
A closer look at the statistics shows that for the 2 leading causes of death in America, heart disease and cancer, the difference in death rates is small…Native American mortality running about 4% higher than the national average.
But look at deaths that might be linked to drug or alcohol abuse and the differences are stark.
Deaths among Native Americans from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis occur at almost 5 times the rate of average Americans. Deaths from drug overdoses strike Native Americans twice as often as the national average; American Indian deaths from homicides are also twice the overall rate, and deaths by accident occur at 2 and one-half times the national rate. Suicides by Native Americans occur 71% more often than among non-Natives.
And when it comes to diabetes, a disease than can be alleviated by a healthy diet and careful medical monitoring, Native Americans die at more than 3 times the national rate. This dramatic difference in mortality rates and many of the individual deaths themselves would have to be considered preventable.
With that in mind, here’s one more bit of dreadful data: as recently as 2016, the Federal Budget for the Indian Health Service, the primary provider of health care for people living in Native American Communities allotted just under $1300 for each of the 3.7 million American Indians. In that same budget, the Federal Prison system was given just under $7000 a year per person. That gave Native Americans a bit less than 20 cents for every dollar spent on non-natives in prison.
President Trump wanted to cut funding for the Indian Health Service, but in its $1.3 billion budget bill Congress actually boosted funding…but it’s still less than 25% of what the Federal Prison System got for health care.
In almost all the treaties between Native American tribes and the US Government, a promise was made, that Uncle Sam would take care of Indians’ health care. Like so many promises made in America’s Indian treaties, this one has been broken.
One especially shocking example of Federally-funded medical neglect of Native Americans is the health care provided in some 80 jails supervised by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Mary Hudetz reports for the Associated Press from Albuquerque, NM. Over the past 3 years she has reported national spot and enterprise stories from New Mexico with a beat focused on all levels of the criminal justice system (federal, state, local and tribal). As a Native America, herself, Mary has also reportedly widely on issues pertaining to Native American life. Her months-long investigation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs detention facilities was undertaken as part of the CJ (Criminal Justice) Project of New Mexico in Depth, and was supported by the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), the National Center on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) and the University of New Mexico. .