Future public health delivery models for Native American tribes

M T Allison, P A Rivers, M D Fottler
Public Health 2007, 121 (4): 296-307

BACKGROUND: More and more Native American tribes are assuming control of their own public health care delivery systems by contracting the functions of the Indian Health Service (IHS) through the provisions of P.L. (public law) 93-638, the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act. In doing this, some Native American tribes are making decisions to create or plan their own departments of public health. In Arizona, the Gila River Indian Community has already established its own department of public health and the Navajo Nation is in the planning stages of establishing its own department of public health.

METHODS AND RESULTS: This paper proposes three public health organizational delivery models to meet the public health needs of small, medium, and large Native American tribes. Information for these models was derived from interviews with officials associated with the Arizona Department of Health Services and leaders of Native American tribes. These models progress in size and complexity as we move from small to medium to large tribes.

CONCLUSIONS: (a) service delivery should focus on both preventative and curative services; (b) services should be developed with input from the underserved population; (c) members of underserved populations should be trained to provide service to their communities; (d) one model of health service delivery will not be appropriate for all underserved populations; and (e) different models are required to respond to differing cultures, populations, and geographic locations.

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