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Addressing Native American Health Disparities on Indigenous Peoples’ Day

In 2016, denova Collaborative Healthcare’s hometown of Phoenix officially recognized the first Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Rather than celebrating the genocide and colonialization that Europeans embarked upon across the shores of the continent, Indigenous Peoples’ Day gives us pause to instead acknowledge the cultures and contributions of America’s first inhabitants and their many generations who followed. In a state with 22 federally-recognized tribes, this is certainly an important undertaking.

Today is a fitting day to discuss the disparities in mental and physical health faced by Native American tribes in Arizona and across the United States, and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, never have these disparities been more evident. The CDC released reports showing that Native Americans are 2.8 times more likely to contract the novel coronavirus and are 5.3 times more likely to be hospitalized due to the virus.

But despite the recentness of COVID-19, America’s Native peoples have long known shorter life expectancies and greater incidence of chronic disease, self-harm, and suicide than other Americans. As health professionals, we cannot ignore the impact that centuries of discrimination, disproportionate poverty, and abusive government policies have on Native Americans’ health outcomes.

Access to quality primary care doctors and mental health services, including addiction treatment, is a key issue in addressing these inequities, and expanding availability of virtual doctors and other providers is one way healthcare organizations can step up to this challenge. denova Collaborative Healthcare has been providing virtual care since 2009, and since the start of the pandemic, we have only increased these offerings, providing appointments via cell phone, tablet, laptop or desktop. This allows us to serve patients whether they live far from a clinic, lack safe transportation, or simply do not have the flexibility to miss time at work, several factors that inhibit Arizona’s Native American population from seeking care.

In addition, we accept all health insurance, including AHCCCS, and offer a sliding fee discount program for eligible patients based on the family’s ability to pay.

Most importantly though, our providers acknowledge and understand the physical and mental health disparities experienced by Native Americans and are committed to providing compassionate care that is free of judgement and assumptions. We are relentless in our dedication to improving the healthcare system so that it addresses the needs of all people, recognizing the many nuances of wellbeing that are often overlooked in modern healthcare.

Today, we pay tribute to the storied histories of America’s Indigenous People and their invaluable contributions to our state and our country. We reiterate our stance on eliminating the social injustices that wreak havoc on the health of Native Americans and offer our unwavering support in providing informed and reliable care to all of our Native patients.

Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day from denova Collaborative Healthcare.

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Amanda Keenhold, LAC

Licensed Associate Counselor

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