UHF gives $430K to AICF to expand scholars program  

BY STAFF REPORTS
06/14/2020 02:00 PM
DENVER – The United Health Foundation is increasing its support of the American Indian College Fund’s United Health Foundation Tribal Scholars Program to ensure Native American communities have access to urgently needed health care with a $430,000 grant to provide 13 scholarships for American Indians and Alaska Natives studying in the health and dental fields. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the opportunity to address disparities in access to health care for underserved populations by increasing the number of minority health care providers to serve their communities.

Studies show that AIAN people lag behind other Americans with regard to health status. As a result, AIAN people born today have a life expectancy that is 5.5 years less than the U.S. population in all other races (73.0 years to 78.5 years, respectively), and AIAN people continue to die at higher rates than other Americans from diabetes mellitus, heart disease and chronic lower respiratory diseases, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.

And today’s COVID-19 pandemic means Native people with chronic, underlying health conditions are at even greater risk.

Lack of access to a dentist is also related to health problems. Periodontal disease (gum infection) is associated with increased risks for cancer and cardiovascular disease. Studies also show that people with poor oral health and bad teeth are often stigmatized socially and when individuals are seeking employment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One major reason for health disparities in Native communities includes an insufficient supply of providers of health care services.

“The American Indian College Fund is a longstanding partner we are honored to support – together, we are working to improve the capacity of the health care system to ensure Native communities receive the best quality care,” UHF President Tracy Malone said. “Through this ongoing partnership, we are living our mission of building healthier communities by developing a modern health workforce that is culturally competent and can provide the right care at the right time.”

AICF President and CEO Cheryl Crazy Bull said, “The College Fund appreciates that during this pandemic United Health Foundation is continuing its commitment to our scholars. Tribal people use our traditional ways of knowing and good relationships to support public health and the guidelines that will get us through this crisis. Together we are paving a healthy path for individuals and their families.”

The AICF’s United Health Foundation Tribal Scholars Program is to develop the next generation of Native health care providers to serve their communities with personalized, culturally competent care. The UHF has increased its support for the program by $70,000 this year to provide support to additional students.

Rising sophomores who are studying to be a primary care physician, nurse, physician’s assistant, mental and behavioral health worker, dentist, or pharmacist are eligible for the scholarships, which total over $7,700 per year per student and are renewable for up to three years if students maintain their studies and a 3.0 grade point average. To apply, visit https://collegefund.org/scholarships.

Through collaboration with community partners, grants and outreach efforts, the UHF works to improve the health system, build a diverse and dynamic health workforce and enhance the well-being of local communities. For information, visit UnitedHealthFoundation.org.

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