Published September 17, 2019
TEMECULA, Calif. — Sunday, during a quarterly board meeting and in advance of the National Indian Health Board’s (NIHB) National Tribal Health Conference, the NIHB Board of Directors met with the Indian Health Service (IHS) leadership to discuss funding for programs. The Board also voted on a new executive committee member and resolutions to support its work in Washington, DC and throughout Indian Country.
IHS Principal Deputy Director RADM Weahkee was joined by Deputy Director for Intergovernmental Affairs P. Ben Smith and Director of the Office of Management Services Athena Elliot. They spoke about efforts to work with NIHB to continue its current cooperative agreements that fund a portion of the organization’s advocacy and technical assistance work with tribes, like the Tribal Leaders Diabetes Committee and outreach and education on the Affordable Care Act.
“NIHB Board of Directors appreciates and values our partnership with IHS, and it’s at these meetings that we have an opportunity to express our concerns and recommendations to the federal agency that oversees health care services for all of Indian Country,” said NIHB Board Chairperson and Great Plains Area Representative Victoria Kitcheyan. “It’s imperative as tribal leaders and health advocates that we hold agencies like IHS accountable to their trust responsibility to provide quality health care for all tribal citizens. Funding through the IHS cooperative agreements is critical in carrying out NIHB’s mission of strengthening Tribal health systems.”
In addition to meeting with IHS, the NIHB Board of Directors also elected a new Member-at-Large to serve on the Board’s Executive Committee. Marty Wafford, who is the chairperson of the Southern Plains Indian Health Board
and the current Oklahoma City Area Representative, will fill a vacancy recently created by an outgoing officer. Ms. Wafford serves as the Under Secretary of Support for the Chickasaw Nation Department of Health
“I am blessed to serve on the NIHB board and now elected to executive committee,” said Ms. Wafford. “Participation on the board helps the Oklahoma City Area have a stronger voice about our health care and makes us more informed advocates for policies made on a national level that help our people.”
The NIHB Board of Directors also passed several resolutions, including supporting the expansion of the Community Health Aide Program; calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to hold formal Tribal consultation to finalize and implement the Tribal Public Health Agenda; elevating the position of the IHS Director to Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS); and urging Congress to establish an “indefinite discretionary” appropriation for IHS to fund lease obligations under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA). Passed resolutions guide the policy and advocacy plan for the organization.
This week, NIHB brings together more than 600 Tribal leaders, health providers, health experts and advocates to focus on strengthening health policy through advocacy and federal relations and highlights that health is a key component of the federal trust responsibility and a pathway to sovereignty.