Policymaking to Support the Health of Native American People

The 2020 Census identified 9.7 million people as American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN), alone and in combination with another race. As upheld by the Supreme Court. the United States government has a “trust responsibility to provide services to American Indians and Alaska Native persons”. This doctrine upholds that, among other provisions, the federal government is responsible for “[providing] for the well-being of the tribes” that they are in treaties with. In fulfillment of this trust responsibility the federal government established the Indian Health Service (IHS) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). However, the IHS is not the sole provider of health care services for Native Americans. Tribal programs and urban Indian organizations are also essential providers, completing the IHS, Tribal, and Urban – or “I/T/U” – system of health care delivery for Native Americans. With the pandemic’s disproportionate impacts on Native Americans, it is important to understand available policy options to improve access to quality and culturally appropriate health care services to facilitate better overall health outcomes for all American Indians and Alaska Native persons.

In this briefing, experts overviewed demographics of the Native American population in the United States as well as the current policy and regulatory landscape that guides and directs Native American health care infrastructure. The audience learned about the historical and prevailing social determinants of health faced by this population alongside potential policy solutions at the community, tribal, and federal levels.


  • Christopher Chavis, J.D., MPA, Policy Center Director, National Indian Health Board
  • John Molina, M.D., J.D., LHD, Corporate Compliance Officer, Native Health
  • Nicole Redvers, ND, MPH, Assistant Professor, University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences (moderator)