Document Type



This study (1) determined the present health status of the urban Indian population in the State of Arizona, and determined the extent of use and availability of all health resources for that population, (2) identified the health needs of the population and the barrier\'s that exist in addressing those needs, and (3) provided accurate and timely information that will serve as an objective base for decision making in addressing the identified needs and problems.A needs assessment approach was used with an overall framework represented by the model: Health Status (minus-) Health Resources Used (plus+) Barriers/Health Resources Not Used (equals=) Health Needs. The study also incorporated the PRECEDE model developed by Lawrence Green of the University of Texas and the Needs Assessment for Prevention Planning developed by the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration of the PHS. The study used data compiled on the Phoenix Service Unit for Phoenix and the Pima County urban census tract mortality data for Tucson. Interview data and other sources were also used.The health status of urban Indians in Arizona is poor, and three of the six major causes of death - accidents, alcoholism, homicide - are complex problems with which medical technology has had little success. Heart disease, cancer and diabetes, the other leading causes of death are chronic conditions requiring long-term health monitoring. Urban Indian reported high prevalence of vision problems (40.5%), overweight (37.3%), dental (30.7%), and back problems (21.7%). Mental health problems affected many in the Indian community - 14.5% reported anxiety and depression and 13.5% reported fatigue and exhaustion. Infant mortality rates for urban Indians are well above the rate of the Arizona general population and the overall Arizona Indian population. The urban Indian infant mortality rate exceeds the 1990 U.S. Surgeon General\'s Objective for the nation by 60%. Health risk factor levels are high among the Arizona urban Indian community. High blood pressure readings in the Indian males combined with the low numbers taking blood pressure medication point to the importance of screening and follow-up for heart health risks. Levels of obesity, binge drinking and diabetes are also elevated within the urban Indian community in Arizona. Other health risks of urban Indians include high driving speeds, driving while intoxicated, and sedentary life-styles. The major source of health care for urban Indians is the IHS. Other sources such as county medical facilities, community health centers, and private providers are rarely used. Over 40% of the urban Indian community went to the emergency room for health care during 1988. However, many of these visits represent inappropriate use of the emergency facilities. Social services in the metropolitan areas are under-utilized by the Indian community. Indian-specific programs with the exception of alcohol-related services and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition services are not available. Both WIC and the alcohol-related programs are among the few used by the Indian community, indicating that services geared toward Indian people will have greater utilization than those not culturally specific. American Indians living in urban areas with limited access to phones and transportation are best reached by the ""word-of-mouth"" about services. American Indian staff in urban health programs, particularly the Community Health Representatives, provide an important link to the urban Indian community. They are able to outreach through their work in both homes and community health. They can follow the movement of clients through their family and friends within the community. Most of the urban health programs provide transportation services that enable urban Indians to access services they would otherwise forego. Barriers to care were identified in the categories of socioeconomic factors, lack of health insurance, complexity of Medicaid program requirements, limited availability of services for low-income Indians in urban areas, and limited accessibility and acceptability of services for urban Indians. The combination of poor health status, underutilization of services, and numerous barriers to services leave the urban Indian community with service requirements for medical items, prescriptions, emergency care, pediatric care, and overnight hospital stays. In addition, culturally sensitive mental health programs are needed based on the high prevalence of anxiety, depression, and exhaustion within the community. There is a critical need for basic preventive, family-centered medical services, and for comprehensive perinatal care. Because of the high number of young children, there is a great need for well-child clinics focusing on preventive medicine. Clinics providing culturally-specific services need to be incorporated into the health plan for the urban Indian community. Low-cost ambulatory clinic facilities with eye and dental care are needed. Prevention programs targeting diabetes, alcohol and drug abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, violence, and accidental injuries should be established to assuage the high costs of such conditions among urban Indian communities in Arizona. Transition programs for new residents in each urban area would help bring Indians into the service stream and avoid the downward spiral into despairing poverty. Indian-specific mental health services are needed to deal with the high rate of homicide and suicide among Indian youth, the high rates of alcohol and substance abuse, and reported mental health problems. In policy terms, there is a need for a Medicaid education program and a coalition of efforts among the tribes, IHS, state, and private agencies. Arizona should be addressed as a contract care state since legislation has been already passed; but no funding has been allocated to carry out the legislation. The role of the Phoenix Indian Medical Center needs to the clarified to establish whether it functions as a referral hospital (as originally intended) or as an outpatient clinic (as it is currently utilized but without adequate resources). The IHS needs to explore the feasibility of shared service in Arizona between urban Indian health care delivery programs and local service units. Full-time urban Indian positions at the state and federal levels need to be established.

Publication Date



Indian Health Service, Staff Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Research, Rockville, MD 20857 (E-114).