– Tracel Wilt, Vice President, Government Sales, BioIQ –
On my flight home from the Indian Health Services National Combined Councils meeting in San Diego, I reflected on the amazing people I met and the noble mission they’re committed to. Indian Health Services (IHS), an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, is responsible for providing federal health services to American Indians and Alaska Natives. Over the course of three days, I learned about the pride these people have for their culture, which is steeped in rich traditions, and the obstacles their communities face when it comes to accessing quality healthcare.
Providing healthcare services to American Indian and Alaska Natives is a very complex process. There are several barriers to care: it’s difficult to recruit and retain healthcare providers in very rural locations; patients have to travel long distances to clinics; and many people in the community do not have reliable (or any) transportation. Educational efforts have increased in the past 10 years, which is helping, but much more is needed. In order to be effective, health education must continue to be culturally sensitive to the beliefs of American Indian and Alaska Natives.
Further complicating the problem: These populations are plagued with toxic stress stemming from food scarcity, physical abuse and poverty. Cumulatively, these experiences are referred to as “historical trauma” – and the negative effects of this type of trauma can span generations. It would be great to wave the proverbial magic wand to make this demographic less prone to diabetes and cardiovascular disease, but the reality is that change won’t happen overnight.
Despite the struggle, there is hope. Some communities are adopting Trauma Informed Care, a treatment framework that involves understanding, recognizing and responding to the effects of all types of trauma. This approach encourages healthcare providers to look deeper than a patient’s symptoms and provide care through the lens of historical trauma. This treatment approach is gaining traction, and our group had the opportunity to pose questions to a panel of experts on the subject, including Jamie Redford, producer of the award-winning documentary Paper Tigers, Dr. Ann Bullock, and Beverly Cotton, DNP. The panelists each emphasized the importance of treating the whole patient – not just the symptoms. The discussion was followed by an exclusive screening of Redford’s new documentary, “Resilience,” which delves into the science of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and a new movement to treat and prevent toxic stress.
The work being done within IHS is creating positive changes that will impact many generations of American Indians and Alaska Natives. The continued success of these programs is dependant on a combination of tools that measure baseline health and an accessible network of compassionate providers to motivate and guide patients on their journey to health.
BioIQ excels in helping populations design, implement and execute programs tailored to their population’s specific requirements. Are you in need of a partner to walk with you through this transition to greater health? Call me at 910-599-5422 to discuss your specific goals. It would be my honor to work with you to establish a culture of wellness.