Arizona Group Hosts Health Event for American Indian Veterans
The Southern Arizona Gathering of American Indian Vets on Saturday will host a program specifically targeted at the health of American Indian veterans, who often do not take advantage of health, education, employment and housing services provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Arizona Daily Star reports. The program will provide no-cost health screenings and wellness education.
While American Indians can receive routine care through HHS' Indian Health Service, eligible veterans can benefit from the specialized services the VA offers, Debi Nalwood, a program analyst for IHS, said. Nalwood added, "It's a different population in how you reach out to them. [It takes] a lot of visibility and talking to them and building trust."
George Bearpaw -- acting director for IHS in the Tucson, Ariz., area -- said that many American Indian veterans are "hesitant to work with the VA system." He added, "Native culture has its own system of healing. Veterans for the most part identify with the family to work out their problems -- but it may not be enough. That is when behavioral health needs to come into play."
Yvonne Garcia, a nurse advocate for American Indians at the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System, said, "If you come from a traditional background, where you think that all illness starts with the spirit, and you come into a Western medicine model, and people are trying to make you do things in a different way, then you feel like you're not listened to." She added that the hospital offers culturally sensitive programs, such as a talking circle (Medrano, Arizona Daily Star, 6/1).