AI/AN Health and Resources

National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

One of the Office of Minority Health’s (OMH) core focuses is to address the individual social needs and the social determinants of health (SDOH) of racial and ethnic minorities and American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities.

SDOH are the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. SDOH can be grouped into five domains:

  • Education access and quality
  • Social community and context
  • Economic stability
  • Neighborhood and built environment
  • Health care access and quality

SDOH can contribute to an array of health disparities and inequities for AI/AN communities. For this year’s Native American Heritage Month, OMH is focused on spreading awareness about the SDOH that play a role in the following health concerns:

  • AI/AN Maternal health disparities
  • Access to health care and culturally appropriate care for AI/AN patients
  • Environmental factors impacting the health of AI/AN communities
  • Indigenous food sovereignty and access to healthy foods

Keep scrolling to learn more about the SDOH affecting these health concerns for AI/AN communities and to find helpful resources from OMH's partners to share with your communities, patients, and organizations.

Visit Health People 2030 to learn more about SDOH, learn about federal efforts to address SDOH, and explore research related to SDOH.

Visit the CDC's website to find tools for putting SDOH in action.

Maternal Health

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Learn about AI/AN maternal health disparities

Maternal health Exit Disclaimer refers to the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postnatal period.

All SDOH play an important role in maternal health, with food, housing, and health care often being the most pressing needs for healthy mothers and infants.

Pregnant women living in low-income communities may not be able to access or afford the necessary shelter, health care, and food needed to support themselves and their infants. The median household income for AI/ANs is $49,906, as compared to $71,664 for non-Hispanic white households.

The research continues to show substantial maternal health disparities between AI/AN and White mothers.

AI/AN women are experiencing an alarming rate of maternal mortality Exit Disclaimer, with three to four times more likely than white women to die of complications related to pregnancy and/or childbirth.

These adverse maternal outcomes are due to the fact that AI/AN women are more likely than White women to experience high levels of poverty, live in hazardous conditions, experience food insecurity, and lack access to health insurance.

AI/AN infants have twice the mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites, with leading causes of death being low-birthweight, congenital malformations, maternal complications, and sudden infant death syndrome.

Want to learn more about the maternal health disparities impacting AI/AN communities? Browse a short collection of free, related resources in the OMH Knowledge Center online catalog Exit Disclaimer.

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Access to Health Care

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Learn about the challenges to finding health care and culturally appropriate care faced by AI/AN patients

When high-quality health care services are accessible, people can receive the medical attention and information they need to prevent disease and remain healthy.

Lack of transportation, cost of insurance and/or medical expenses, difficulty in being able to time off from work or find childcare, discrimination, limited literacy, and language barriers are a few reasons why health care may not be accessible.

Language barriers occur between providers and patients when the two groups do not share a native language. In 2019, 26.7 percent of AI/AN spoke a language other than English at home. Having limited English proficiency in the United States can make it challenging to access and understand health information and get the quality of healthcare needed.

The AI/AN population experiences lower life expectancy and disproportionate disease burden due to inadequate education, discrimination in the delivery of health services, cultural differences, and poverty.

While the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) decreased the uninsured rate among AI/AN under the age of 65 from 44% in 2010 to 28% in 2018, the AI/AN population continues to have the highest uninsured rate compared to other populations.

Want to learn more about how health care access and quality impact AI/AN patients? Browse a short collection of free, related resources in the OMH Knowledge Center online catalog Exit Disclaimer.

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Non-Federal Resources


Environmental Health

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Learn about the ways the environmental factors can impact the health of AI/AN communities

When an environment is unhealthy and unsafe, it often includes harmful pollutants in the air, water, soil, food, and materials. Over time, these exposures can cause serious health problems like respiratory diseases, heart disease, and some types of cancers.

Low-income populations Exit Disclaimer are more likely to live in polluted areas and have unsafe air and drinking water.

The U.S. Census Bureau revealed that 26.6% of AI/AN from urban service populations are below 100% federal poverty level, or live in extreme poverty, compared to 14.7% of the general population.

AI/AN people also face several environmental hazards that affect their health statuses, including limited availability of housing, extensive use of substandard housing with unsanitary methods of sewage and waste disposal, and unsafe water supplies.

Want to learn more about the ways climate change and other environmental factors impact AI/AN communities? Browse a short collection of free, related resources in the OMH Knowledge Center online catalog Exit Disclaimer.

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Federal Resources

  • Environmental Protection in Indian Country: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) works to protect human health and the environment of federally recognized tribes by supporting the implementation of federal environmental laws, with a special emphasis on helping tribes administer their own environmental programs.
  • Native American Lands Environmental Mitigation Program (NALEMP) Exit Disclaimer was established to address environmental impacts on Indian lands from former Department of Defense activities with maximum tribal participation through government-to-government consultation.
  • White House Justice40 Initiative is a whole-of-government effort to ensure that Federal agencies work with states and local communities to deliver at least 40 percent of the overall benefits from federal investments in climate and clean energy to disadvantaged communities.

Non-Federal Resources

  • Honor the Earth Exit Disclaimer aims to create awareness and support for Native environmental issues and to develop needed financial and political resources for the survival of sustainable Native communities.
  • Indigenous Environmental Network Exit Disclaimer is an alliance of grassroots indigenous peoples whose mission is to protect the sacredness of Mother Earth from contamination and exploitation by strengthening, maintaining, and respecting traditional teachings and natural laws.
  • Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals Exit Disclaimer was established in 1992 at Northern Arizona University with a vision to assist Indian Tribes in managing their environmental resources through effective training and education programs.
  • Sustainable Nations Development Project Exit Disclaimer is a Native American-led and staffed non-profit providing renewable energy, sustainable building, and alternative wastewater treatment training and project development for Native Peoples.

Indigenous Food Sovereignty

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Learn about indigenous food sovereignty and the role access to healthy foods has on AI/AN health

Food sovereignty is the right to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.

To put food sovereignty into action, it's critical that people can access and afford food. Individuals who cannot afford or access nutrient-dense foods are at risk of developing chronic illnesses.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025, a healthy dietary pattern consists of nutrient-dense forms of foods and beverages across all food groups, in recommended amounts, and within calorie limits.

Following a healthy dietary pattern true to custom roots can be challenging for AI/AN communities since much of Indian Country Exit Disclaimer lacks easy access to grocery stores or fresh, affordable food.

Want to learn more about the ways food insecurity impacts AI/AN communities? Browse a short collection of free, related resources in the OMH Knowledge Center online catalog Exit Disclaimer.

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Federal Resources

Non-Federal Resources