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Three-Year Program to Increase Native Student Health Scholarships to Address Health Care Disparities in Indian Country, Including Dental Health

Denver, Colo., June 11, 2020— The United Health Foundation (UHF) is increasing its support of the American Indian College Fund’s United Health Foundation Tribal Scholars Program to ensure Native American communities have access to urgently needed health care with a $430,000 grant to provide 13 scholarships for American Indian and Alaska Natives studying in the health and dental fields. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the opportunity to address disparities in access to health care for underserved populations by increasing the number of minority health care providers to serve their communities.

Studies show that American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) people lag behind other Americans with regard to health status. As a result, AIAN people born today have a life expectancy that is 5.5 years less than the U.S. population in all other races (73.0 years to 78.5 years, respectively), and AIAN people continue to die at higher rates than other Americans from diabetes mellitus, heart disease, and chronic lower respiratory diseases, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. And today’s COVID-19 pandemic means Native people with chronic, underlying health conditions are at even greater risk.

Lack of access to a dentist is also related to health problems. 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 individuals are seeking employment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One major reason for health disparities in Native communities includes an insufficient supply of providers of health care services.

“The American Indian College Fund is a longstanding partner we are honored to support – together, we are working to improve the capacity of the health care system to ensure Native communities receive the best quality care,” said Tracy Malone, president of the United Health Foundation. “Through this ongoing partnership, we are living our mission of building healthier communities by developing a modern health workforce that is culturally competent and can provide the right care at the right time.”

Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, said, “The College Fund appreciates that during this pandemic United Health Foundation is continuing its commitment to our scholars. Tribal people use our traditional ways of knowing and good relationships to support public health and the guidelines that will get us through this crisis. Together we are paving a healthy path for individuals and their families.”

The goal of the American Indian College Fund’s United Health Foundation Tribal Scholars Program is to develop the next generation of Native health care providers to serve their communities with personalized, culturally competent care. The United Health Foundation has increased its support for the program by $70,000 this year to provide support to additional students.

Rising sophomores who are studying to be a primary care physician, nurse, physician’s assistant, mental and behavioral health worker, dentist, or pharmacist are eligible for the scholarships, which total over $7,700 per year per student and are renewable for up to three years if students maintain their studies and a 3.0 grade point average. To apply for scholarships, please visit https://collegefund.org/scholarships.

About 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 (NYSE: UNH) in 1999 as a not-for-profit, private foundation dedicated to improving health and health care. To date, the United Health Foundation has committed nearly $358 million to programs and communities around the world. We invite you to learn more at www.unitedhealthgroup.com/SocialResponsibility

About the American Indian College Fund —Founded in 1989, the American Indian College Fund has been the nation’s largest charity supporting Native higher education for 30 years. The College Fund believes “Education is the answer” and provided $7.72 million in scholarships to 3,900 American Indian students in 2018-19, with nearly 137,000 scholarships and community support totaling over $208 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.

Reporters: The American Indian College Fund does not use the acronym AICF. On second reference, please use the College Fund.

CONTACT: 
Dina Horwedel
American Indian College Fund
dhorwedel@collegefund.org, 303-430-5350

Jenifer McCormick
The United Health Foundation
jenifer_mccormick@uhg.com, 952-936-1917