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Stanford Medical School – Seeking a Path to Health on Rosebud Indian Reservation

BY TRACIE WHITE - ILLUSTRATIONS BY JEFFREY DECOSTER

“Cursed with some of the highest suicide rates in the country, tribal leaders declared a state of emergency here back in 2007 making headlines in The New York Times. But today, six years later, not much has changed. Across the United States, American Indian and Alaska Native youth ages 15 to 24 are still committing suicide at rates three times the national average of 13 per 100,000 people for their age group, according to the U.S. surgeon general. On the Great Plains, the suicide rate for Native Americans is 10 times the national average. Unemployment hovers at 80 percent, and the life expectancy of 46 years is one year shorter than Haiti’s — 33 shorter than the U.S. average…It’s well-documented that the government’s attempts to meet its obligations to the Native Americans have failed miserably; the primary cause is insufficient funding. Currently, prisoners receive significantly higher per capita health-care funding than Native Americans. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights reports the federal government spends about $5,000 per capita each year on health care for the general U.S. population, $3,803 on federal prisoners and $1,914 on Indian health care.”

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