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‘American Diagnosis’: When Indigenous Peoples Move to Cities, Health Care Funding Falls Short

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Episode 12: Indigenous and Invisible in the Big City

More than 70% of the indigenous peoples of the United States live in urban areas. But urban Indian health accounts for less than 2% of the Indian Health Service’s annual budget.

While enrolled members of federally recognized tribes can access the Indian Health Service or manage tribal health care on their reservations, Indian peoples living in cities may find themselves without access to the care to which they are entitled.

“Even though we live in urban areas now, that doesn’t mean our benefits should abandon us,” said Esther Lucero, president and CEO of the Seattle Indian Health Board.

The Seattle Indian Health Board is one of many urban clinics in the United States that were opened to address the discrimination and lack of services faced by Indian people in cities. These clinics work to meet the cultural and ceremonial needs of the populations they serve.

“We are much more than a community health center or a place that provides direct care. We are a home away from home,” said Lucero.

Episode 12 explores the barriers indigenous peoples face in accessing quality health care in cities and the efforts of urban indigenous clinics to meet the needs of this population.

Voices of the episode:

  • Ester Luceropresident and CEO of the Seattle Indian Health Board
  • dr patrick rockCEO of the Minneapolis Indian Health Board
  • douglas millerAssociate Professor of Native American History at Oklahoma State University
  • richard wrightspiritual health advisor to the Minneapolis Indian Health Board

Season 4 of “American Diagnosis” is a co-production of KHN and Only human productions.

Our Editorial Advisory Board includes Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Alastair BitsoyY Bryan Pollard.

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KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces detailed journalism on health issues. Along with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the top three operating programs in KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization that provides information on health issues to the nation.


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