Myths and reality

Nurses General Nursing


"Most Indians live on reservations and don't pay taxes." "Indians don't have to work because the government provides all their needs." "Native Americans are all wealthy from gaming casino revenues."

These are a few of the myths and misconceptions that can affect funding for urban Indian health care, according to the National Council of Urban Indian Health.

The nonprofit organization was founded in San Diego in 1998 to support and develop quality accessible health care programs for American Indian and Alaska Natives living in urban communities through advocacy, education, training and leadership development.

Geoffrey Roth, NCUIH executive director, said misinformation is the main obstacle to ensuring the vitality of Urban Indian Health Programs.

The Reality

More than 64 percent of American Indians live in cities, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. Today's urban Indians are the descendants of Indians who voluntarily moved to the cities or who were forced to move by government

relocation policies.

Title V Urban Indian Health Programs are the key providers of care to the large population of uninsured urban Indians.

AI/AN suffer from chronic conditions such as diabetes, cirrhosis and alcoholism at rates much higher than the general population. According to the Urban Indian Health Institute, Native populations suffer from diabetes at a 54 percent higher rate, cirrhosis at a 126 percent higher rate, and have the third highest HIV/AIDS infection rate.

Another pervasive myth is that American Indians are rich from gaming profits. The NCUIH Web site points out that only 39 percent of tribes operate casinos and that Indians are still among the poorest in the country, with 25 percent living in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. "Gaming has really hurt us," Roth said.

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