Everybody is entitled to good medical care since it is a basic human need. However, this is not the case entirely in the United States since there are communities such as the Native Americans who do not receive adequate health care compared to other groups. Consequently, the Indian Health Service (IHS), a branch within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has a responsibility of meeting the medical needs of Native Americans in the country. The IHS Loan Repayment Program is one strategy the agency uses by helping health practitioners pay for their student loans in exchange for full-time service obligations.
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One of the primary challenges that American Indians and Alaska Natives face is the insufficiency of medical personnel. This program helps in resolving the crisis by attracting the services of freshly graduated healthcare professionals who would appreciate the $20,000 offered to them each year (Smith, n.d.). This is motivating enough for nurses and doctors to clear their student loans while making a two-year commitment of full-time service to the communities. Moreover, the groups are assured of the best medical assistance since the program is sponsored by IHS, equipping the volunteering medics with high-quality resources.
However, assigning a provider to the communities for a period of only two years as stipulated in the program has its own challenges. For instance, replacing doctors in a health center biannually consumes time and resources in training before assigning them to the dedicated sites. Additionally, the initiative interferes with the continuity of treatment for long-term patients to whom the same group of health experts has attended (Zabat, 2021). Although medical procedures are standardized, treatment approaches differ from one doctor to another, and changing physicians might disrupt the therapy process.
Finally, most of the healthcare professionals assigned to these sites are not natives and therefore face challenges related to culture. Ethnic and racial disparity is an example of an issue that has denied the American Indians access to medical care since most of them cannot afford insurance coverage. Moreover, some of the communities in rural areas are still attached to their traditional lifestyles which conflict with modern medications. The best solution to this issue is offering scholarships to qualified Alaska Natives and American Indians who can then act as a bridge between other healthcare experts and the communities.
Smith, M. (n.d.) Native Americans: A crisis in health equity. Americanbar. Web.
Zabat, G. (2021). Cultural barriers challenge Native Americans seeking cancer treatment. Indianz. Web.