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Health
Interview with IHS leader Yvette Roubideaux


The Great Falls Tribune interviewed Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota who is the first woman to serve as director of the Indian Health Service.

"QUESTION: By many measures — diabetes, tuberculosis, alcoholism, life expectancy — Indians are much less healthy than other racial groups. What's your reaction?

ANSWER: There are two sides of that story. The first side is that since the Indian Health Service was created in 1955, there's been significant gains in terms of the health status of American Indian and Native Alaskan populations. There's been a lot of improvement. But the other side is we still do see health disparities; we still do see health care challenges. There are a number of reasons for that.

QUESTION: Such as?

ANSWER: The first is this agency has probably never been funded at a level that can address the growing needs of the population. We're facing a lot of challenges related to the budget. These are growing populations, so the demand for services is rapidly increasing. The budget has been increasing over time, but not enough to adjust for medical inflation. It's like our buying power has gone down over the years.

QUESTION: Members of Congress and tribal leaders have used the terms "broken" and "starved" to describe IHS. Do you agree?

ANSWER: I heard a really good analogy the other day: "It's a really good car. It just needs more gas." The system is so stretched. Employees are wearing multiple hats. I was visiting an area office, and everybody who introduced themselves had three or four jobs that normally you'd expect one person to do."

Get the Story:
Q&A with Indian Health Service director Yvette Roubideaux (The Great Falls Tribune 8/23)
First woman director of Indian Health works to heal troubled agency (The Great Falls Tribune 8/23)

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