Katharine McLaughlin Share Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Email Today, most American Indian and Alaska Natives that live in cities have unique health needs. The Kresge Foundation has been an ally and partner of the National Council of Urban Indian Health and recently connected for a conversation with its Chief Executive Officer, Francys Crevier. Below, Crevier shares how organizational partnerships have continued to support advances in health equity and create a path forward for equitable health care in Indian Country. Kresge: What is the National Council of Urban Indian Health and what is the organization’s mission? Crevier: The National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH) is a national nonprofit organization devoted to the support and development of quality, accessible, and culturally-competent health services for American Indians and Alaska Natives living in urban settings. NCUIH is the only national organization that focuses and advocates for the health of urban Natives, and we provide critically needed technical assistance, training, policy support and other services to Urban Indian Organizations (UIOs) that provide health services to urban American Indians and Alaska Natives located throughout the United States. For more than 20 years, NCUIH advocated for health equity for the urban Indian population. We envision a nation where comprehensive personal and public health services are available and accessible to all Natives living in urban centers throughout the United States. NCUIH also works on Capitol Hill and with the federal government agencies to advocate for access to culturally competent healthcare for urban American Indian and Alaska Natives across the country. Kresge: Why does the National Council of Urban Indian Health focus on urban American Indian and Alaska Native health? Crevier: From the 1700s and 1800s, the federal government’s policy was to strip Tribal land from American Indian and Alaska Native people. In the 19th and 20th centuries, federal boarding schools were established and American Indian and Alaska Native children were taken from their reservations and families and inserted into foreign environments. The federal government’s relocation policies lasted through the 1970s and forced American Indians and Alaska Natives off Tribal land. Today, well over 70 percent of the American Indian and Alaska Native population live in urban areas. Our population’s shift to urban areas has put this group at risk for a host of infectious disease issues, and many have experienced economic instability, homelessness, unemployment, poverty, and a lack of cultural connectiveness or sense of community. Our ancestors signed treaties with the federal government guaranteeing health care for American Indians in this country. They signed the treaties to ensure future generations had everything they need to be healthy, and we will not stop fighting until that happens. We envision a nation where comprehensive personal and public health services are available and accessible to all Natives living in urban centers throughout the United States. Kresge: How has the COVID-19 vaccine impacted Indian Country? Crevier: At NCUIH, we are very proud of our communities when it came to vaccinations and access to those critical vaccines. NCUIH worked every angle to ensure Urban Indian Organizations and Indian Country at large had access to COVID-19 vaccines because they did not receive federal resources during the H1N1 pandemic, and fortunately our efforts were successful. Our Native relatives have the highest rate of vaccination for COVID-19 and that is unquestionably because our community came together during this time to ensure access to the vaccine. At a time when the health care industry is grappled by historic workforce shortages, Urban Indian Organizations rolled up their sleeves and continued to work harder than ever. American Indians and Alaska Natives have lost more lives to this virus than any other people and we have not begun to realize the long-lasting impacts this will have on our communities – whether it be loss of language, history, or community. I am proud of our urban Indian leaders. Together, we were able to advocate for unprecedented resources to combat COVID-19 and saw the highest increase in urban Indian health funding in over a decade. However, some urban Indians are still left out as several cities don’t have any Urban Indian Organization health providers due to longstanding inadequate funding for urban programs. So, we still have much work to do. I know I have already shared this with you, but it is such a good resource I would be remiss if I didn’t share it again. To improve vaccine confidence, NCUIH launched a #BeAGoodRelative campaign to increase vaccine participation among urban American Indians and Alaska Natives. The #BeAGoodRelative campaign recently created a video series that has been very popular. To find out more and download the toolkit, follow NCUIH on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube. Please visit NCUIH’s website for more information on our critical work to support the resiliency of the American Indian and Alaska Native community through meaningful change in the social equity of health care. Kresge: How important are partnerships and collaborations in advancing health equity for American Indians and Alaska Natives in urban areas? Crevier: We have thrived through our continued partnerships and they play an important role in our mission as well as the impact we have in Indian Country. Recently, at our Annual Conference, we honored The Kresge Foundation with our “Rising Ally” Award. This award acknowledges an individual or organization that has emerged as a robust collaborator in Indian Country and promoter of equity in health care for urban American Indians and Alaska Natives. It was important for us to publicly recognize and acknowledge our valuable partnership with The Kresge Foundation. We truly appreciate that you help us to spread the word about our work and the importance of health equity for all American Indians and Alaska Natives. Partnerships and collaborations are vital to the success of our mission, and I look forward to our continued collaboration moving forward.