Known for the rich cultures that comprise their various communities, American Indians and Alaskan Natives also face unique health disparities exacerbated by various social determinant of health (SDOH) factors. Native American Heritage Month provides the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Office of Minority Health (CMS OMH) with an opportunity to highlight these health care needs.
In comparison to their White counterparts, American Indian and Alaska Native adults have increased likelihood for obesity (48% to 31%), diabetes (14.5% to 7.4%), and smoking cigarettes (27% to 13%). Certain cancer rates, including colorectal, kidney, stomach, and liver are also 37-300% higher than non-Hispanic White adults. Additionally, Native American women are up to four times more likely than White women to die from pregnancy-related complications and to have a preventable death. Diabetes, sudden unexpected infant death, and vehicle accidents are some of the leading disparities facing the Native American community.
CMS OMH also recognizes National Rural Health Day throughout November, with Tribal areas included in the rural areas that we serve. American Indians and Alaska Natives in rural areas face their own unique health disparities, with rural American Indian and Alaska Native Medicare beneficiaries typically reporting experiences with care that were worse than the experiences reported by rural White beneficiaries. Disparities in patient care between American Indians and Alaskan Natives and White Americans were also more common in rural areas than in urban areas. CMS OMH is committed to helping the populations that we serve, including American Indians and Alaska Natives, achieve their optimal health. Below is a list of resources that can be shared with those you serve through Native American Heritage Month and beyond.
- Download the Coverage to Care Roadmap to Better Care (Tribal Version), which explains what health coverage is and how to use it to get primary care and preventive services. This version also highlights the special protections for American Indians and Alaska Natives under Marketplace, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
- View our data snapshot, Diabetes Disparities in Medicare Fee-for-Service Beneficiaries (PDF), to find important information and racial and ethnic disparities in diabetes prevalence among Medicare FFS enrollees.
- Read our data snapshot, Tobacco Use Disparities in Medicare Fee-For-Service Beneficiaries (PDF), to find important information and racial and ethnic disparities in tobacco use prevalence among Medicare FFS enrollees.
- Review the CMS Division of Tribal Affairs website, including the Division of Tribal Affairs Contact List to find the right point of contact at the Agency for tribal health issues
- Check out the CMS Tribal Technical Advisory Group (TTAG) for information on the Government-to-Government relationship and understanding between CMS and Tribes.
- Visit the CDC Healthy Tribes webpage, which provides information on programs and partnerships to help promote health, prevent disease, and strengthen cultural connections to improve health and promote wellness.
Visit the Indian Health Services Best and Promising Practices webpage to learn how providers can better support the American Indian and Alaska Native populations they serve.