NIHB Media Release                     

November 18, 2015

Cherokee Nation Public Health Director Highlights Public Health Needs of Indian Country on Capitol Hill
WASHINGTON, DC - On November 18, 2015, the Congressional Public Health Caucus and the Coalition for Health Funding organized a briefing entitled "Public Health 101- Opportunity Lost: Struggles to Meet Health Demands in an Era of Austerity."   The National Indian Health Board (NIHB) was also a co-host of this event.  During the briefing, panelists discussed how federal funding cuts have impacted health outcomes across the country.  Among the panelists was Lisa Pivec, Senior Director of Public Health at the Cherokee Nation, who highlighted public health needs in Indian Country.  NIHB was pleased to sponsor her participation in this event.  Other panelists included Sandy Eskin, Pew Charitable Trusts; Jessica Hayes, Illinois Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association; Dr. Clarence Lam, The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; and Dr. Benjamin Margolis, University of Michigan Medical School.
Lisa Pivec Senior Director of Public Health for the Cherokee Nation delivers remarks at the Public Health 101 Congressional Briefing on November 18
The briefing started with an introduction by Public Health Caucus Co-Chair Rob Wittman (R-VA).  Congressman Wittman noted the importance of direct patient care but that the "prevention side does not get enough of our time and attention" referring to federal, state, and local policymakers.  He also stressed that the next generation of public health work will largely happen at the state and local levels, rather than being dictated by the federal government and national policy.
During the briefing, all panelists addressed the struggles that communities must face when it comes to funding cuts in public health from having sustainable funding for medical research to drug abuse treatment and prevention.   Ms. Pivec started her presentation by reminding the audience of over 80 Congressional staff and other stakeholders of the federal government's trust responsibility to provide health services for American Indians and Alaska Natives.  She eloquently highlighted the unique needs of Tribes when she pointed out the very low amount of overall health funding going to Tribes and said, "Investing in public health is not an option for Indian Country."  Tribes should not have to choose between treating an immediate illness for a patient and future prevention of illnesses in a community.
While other states and localities can supplement their local resources with federal grants, Tribal communities often rely solely on limited federal grant funds.  In fact, Tribes are regularly left out of state-wide public health planning and are competing with their own states or neighboring counties for these critical dollars.  Tribes were ignored during the formulation of the US public health system, and Ms. Pivec emphasized the need for more investment in public health infrastructure for Indian Country because it benefits all areas surrounding Tribes too.  "I hope we can build public health infrastructure that adequately serves not only Tribes, but also the larger communities surrounding them," she said.
Finally, Ms. Pivec made some important recommendations to improve the state of public health in Indian Country including specific Tribally-directed funding for block grant programs; expansion of Tribal Self Governance to other programs at the Department of Health and Human Services; and the importance of federal support for cultural healing practices for Tribal communities.
Click here to read a Fact Sheet with more details on Public Health in Indian Country.  
NIHB would like to thank the Coalition for Health Funding for their coordination of this event and tireless advocacy for health resources nationwide. 

The National Health Board (NIHB) is a 501(c) 3 not for profit, charitable organization providing health care advocacy services, facilitating Tribal budget consultation and providing timely information and other services to all Tribal Governments. Whether Tribes operate their own health care delivery systems through contracting and compacting or receive health care directly from the Indian Health Services (IHS), NIHB is their advocate.  Because the NIHB serves all federally-recognized tribes, it is important that the work of the NIHB reflect the unity and diversity of Tribal values and opinions in an accurate, fair, and culturally-sensitive manner. The NIHB is governed by a Board of Directors consisting of representatives elected by the Tribes in each of the twelve IHS Areas. Each Area Health Board elects a representative and an alternate to sit on the NIHB Board of Directors.

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