Denver, Jul 27, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE via COMTEX) -- Denver, Colo., July 27, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The United Health Foundation (UHF) is continuing its support to ensure Native American communities have access to urgently needed health care with a $430,000 grant to provide scholarships for American Indian and Alaska Natives studying in the health and dental care fields. The pandemic and its disproportionate impact on Native communities highlighted the importance of access to culturally responsive health care for underserved populations. The goal of the United Health Foundation Tribal Scholars Program is to increase the number of employable American Indian and Alaska Native healthcare graduates to work as primary care physicians, nurses, physician assistants, mental and behavioral health specialists, dentists, and pharmacists.
Studies have long shown that American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) people experience poorer health status and suffer from greater rates of chronic disease such as diabetes mellitus and heart and respiratory diseases, while also having shorter lifespans than other groups, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. The America's Health Rankings Health Disparities Report (visit www.americashealthrankings.org ) reveals many additional significant pre-pandemic disparities for Native Americans including food insecurity, severe housing and the rate of depression. And with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, Native communities suffered devastating results.
Lack of dental care also leads to health problems in Native communities. Periodontal disease (gum infection) is associated with increased risks for cancer and cardiovascular disease. Studies also show that people with poor oral health and bad teeth are often stigmatized socially and when seeking employment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
By providing American Indian and Alaska Native students with scholarships to earn degrees in health care, Indigenous graduates can provide people in their communities with personalized, culturally competent care.
Scholarships will be offered to Native students beginning in 2021-22 and are renewable throughout scholars' academic careers. Scholars will be undergraduate or graduate students, with a preference for undergraduates who are rising sophomores or higher and pursuing degrees in the above-referenced fields at tribal colleges and universities or mainstream colleges and universities. Interested students can learn more and apply at https://collegefund.org/scholarships .
"We are honored to continue our partnership with the American Indian College Fund and support its work to create a more diverse health workforce by increasing the number of providers ready to deliver personalized, culturally competent care," said Tracy Malone, President of the United Health Foundation. "We are proud to help aspiring health care professionals reach their dreams and support their communities."
Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund said, "On behalf of the College Fund and our students, I want to acknowledge that not only do the United Health Foundation Scholarships support students, but this partnership improves the health and well-being of our families. We have rich cultural traditions that inform how to live healthy lives and it is through the education of our own people that we will be able to bring culturally competent health care to our communities. The United Health Foundation is a leader in addressing health disparities in ways that honor the knowledge of Indigenous people. We are honored to support their leadership."
About the United Health Foundation -- Through collaboration with community partners, grants and outreach efforts, the United Health Foundation works to improve our health system, build a diverse and dynamic health workforce, and enhance the well-being of local communities. The United Health Foundation was established by UnitedHealth Group /zigman2/quotes/210453738/composite UNH -0.06% in 1999 as a not-for-profit, private foundation dedicated to improving health and health care. To date, the United Health Foundation has committed more than $500 million to programs and communities around the world. We invite you to learn more at UnitedHealthFoundation.org .
About the American Indian College Fund--The American Indian College Fund has been the nation's largest charity supporting Native higher education for 31 years. The College Fund believes "Education is the answer" and provided $9.25 million in scholarships to American Indian students in 2019-20, with scholarships, program, and community support totaling over $237 million since its inception. The College Fund also supports a variety of academic and support programs at the nation's 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities, which are located on or near Indian reservations, ensuring students have the tools to graduate and succeed in their careers. The College Fund consistently receives top ratings from independent charity evaluators and is one of the nation's top 100 charities named to the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance. For more information about the American Indian College Fund, please visit www.collegefund.org .
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