KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Doctors May Need To Work With And Learn From Traditional Healers To Improve Care For Native Americans

The Associated Press reports on efforts to provide culturally appropriate care for Native Americans, by focusing on the simultaneous work of medical doctors such as Joachim Chino, a Navajo-Acoma, and traditional healers such as Navajo medicine man David Begay. Chino, who grew up on the reservation, understands the practices of medicine men and "is well aware of how the cultural beliefs of his patients" affects his work as a doctor. "Bridging the cultural chasm between physicians like Chino and traditional healers is seen as essential for improving care on tribal lands, where hospitals and clinics struggle to keep doctors. It is the oft-expressed hope of Native elders that their talented students will leave the reservation to get an education, then return to help the people."

As part of the recently passed health reform measure was the reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which "addresses recruiting and retaining physicians and other care providers, including mentoring programs, workplace support systems for Natives in the medical field, and increased attention to scholarship and loan programs. The return of even one medical graduate to a tribal community can make a huge difference in the quality of care, said David Bear, assistant dean of admissions at the University of New Mexico's School of Medicine" (Fonseca and Clark, 4/19).

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