Report: Supporting American Indian & Alaskan Native Communities Combating COVID-19

Health Equity

  • Health Equity

    Creating an environment where everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible.

Report: Supporting American Indian & Alaskan Native Communities Combating COVID-19

October 13, 2020

Racial inequities and health and socioeconomic disparities between American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN) people and the U.S. non-Hispanic white population have harmed tribal communities for many generations. The seriousness and depth of longstanding public health problems have been brought into sharp focus with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Increases in funding and improvements in data collection, information sharing, infrastructure, and culturally responsive healthcare services are urgently needed to eliminate these inequities across rural and urban tribal communities in the U.S. 

In August 2020, eHealth Initiative Foundation (eHI) and Philips hosted a virtual Roundtable meeting, titled Supporting Native American Communities Combating the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

The purpose of the meeting was to explore the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on rural and urban American Indian and Alaskan Native (AI/AN) populations throughout the United States; enumerate the social determinants of health (SDOH) and other factors driving disparities in COVID-19 infection rates, treatment, prevention, testing, contact tracing and secondary behavioral health issues across the country’s diverse tribal communities; and gather insights regarding the resources needed to enable AI/AN communities to more effectively reduce infection rates and gain access to services. 

The meeting was organized to provide a starting point for the development of programs and materials – beginning with this issue brief – to raise awareness among healthcare professionals of the daunting challenges facing tribal populations related to COVID-19, and to help the healthcare sector work more closely with tribal leaders and citizens, advocacy groups, public health experts, and government agencies in responding to the needs of AI/AN communities. 

Roundtable participants included experts and leaders in AI/AN health, tribal culture and economics from the government, non-profit, and academic sectors (see Appendix for a full participant list). eHI plans to convene future Roundtables and to collaborate further with AI/AN organizations to develop additional resources to expand the learning and support initiated by this meeting; explore more fully some of the most pressing  needs and issues identified; and generate a framework that can be used for COVID-19-related advocacy and information-sharing in support of AI/AN communities.