Statement from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on National Native American Heritage Month

HHS: 11/1/12

Each November we celebrate National Native American Heritage Month – the history, culture, and character of American Indian and Alaska Native people.

This year’s theme, “Native Families Moving Ahead: Together We Strengthen Our Nations,” speaks to the importance of continuing on the path to a healthier future for all American families.

I had the opportunity this summer to see this theme in action in South Dakota, as I toured the new Indian Health Service (IHS) Cheyenne River Health Center, which along with enhanced medical services includes a Spiritual Room where patients and families can practice their traditions.

We are committed to ensuring the health and well-being of all Americans, which is why we are working to reduce the health disparities that have burdened American Indians and Alaska Natives. Historically, for example, American Indians and Alaska Natives have been more likely to die from diabetes than other racial and ethnic groups.

The Affordable Care Act includes the permanent authorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which makes it possible for IHS to update and expand health care services. An IHS report to Congress this year showed how the Special Diabetes Program for Indians has done a tremendous job of fighting this disease by increasing preventive services and access to treatment in Tribal communities. Read more